Review: Little Old Lady Recipes Cookbook

I have been given the opportunity to review Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom. This book is dedicated to classic food and the people who have passed those recipes down from generation to generation. 

The main premise behind this cookbook by Meg Favreau is that we can go back to the simple foods that started it all- before kitchen equipment and these fancy spices and oils (though truffle oil in mac & cheese is amazing); back to the comforting foods that we all had during family dinners. The author gathered recipes and kitchen table wisdom (such as, "There isn't much a good cake won't fix") from generations of women and shared both with us all.

The cookbook is broken down into the following sections:
  • Breakfasts and Coffee Klatch
  • Soups, Salads, and Casseroles
  • Appetizers and Refreshments
  • Suppers and Side Dishes
  • Sweets and Treats
I was immediately drawn to the Greatest Green Bean Casserole so I decided to give it a try.

Greatest Green Bean Casserole (serves 6)


4 cups frozen green beans (the skinny ones), thawed

Can of cream of mushroom soup

1 3/4 cups fried onions

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup Parmesan

Ground pepper


Mix the green beans, soup, 1 cup of the fried onions, milk, Parmesan, and a little bit of pepper in a bowl. 

Scoop into a casserole dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the casserole is set. 

Top with the remaining fried onions. 


See? It's so simple and it's so delicious. Other recipes that caught my attention were: Macaroni and Cheese Casserole, Deviled Eggs, Ladies' Party Punch, Chicken and Dumplings, Pierogies, and Bread Pudding.

I know this cookbook will become a staple in my kitchen. These are so many dishes whose ingredients are items you would normally find in your cabinets anyhow.

Go buy this book! (Amazon)


Brio Tuscan Grille

Brio Tuscan Grille will offer you something free for your birthday if you sign up for their emails. With that news, I was sold. I was also pleasantly surprised when I finally received my birthday prize in my inbox and saw that I would receive an entire entree for free. Jackpot! What was offered to me was the Beef Medallions with Shrimp Scampi, but we'll get to that later.

To start from the beginning, my mom and I had plans to go out to dinner prior to a concert. Being that I got a free meal at Brio, I wanted to go there. I had walked past Brio a dozen times in the plaza at International Mall and wanted to try it, but just hadn't had the opportunity.

I was immediately impressed with the decor. It had just the right amount of light, the room was spaced well, the colors and decorations were perfect for a Tuscan feel.

While my mom was trying to decide on a dish (a feat in and of itself when everything sounds so appetizing), our waiter brought us bread.

Sourdough Roll and Flaxseed Bread

The sourdough roll came out nice and warm. The butter instantly melted onto the bread and we went to carb heaven. The Flaxseed bread was also a pleasant surprise. It was the perfect amount of crispy. 

When the waiter came back, I gave him my birthday coupon and my mom decided on the Lasagna Bolognese Al Forno. Each of us added a Brio Chopped Salad to our meal for an additional $3.95. Turns out, it was the best $3.95 I've ever spent on a side salad.

Brio Chopped Salad

The salad consists of chopped greens, olives, onions, tomatoes, feta cheese and cucumber, with a red wine vinaigrette. I consider myself a vinegar fiend. I've tried the house vinaigrette in countless restaurants. I make my own vinaigrette. From red wine to balsamic, from white wine to apple cider, I love all vinegars. These was something about this salad that stood apart from all other vinaigrette salads that I have ever had. I really could not get enough of the dressing. 

After, it was time for our entrees.

Lasagna Bolognese Al Forno

Beef Medallions with Shrimp Scampi

The lasagna is oven baked and layered with authentic Bolognese meat sauce, Alfredo, Ricotta and Mozzarella and it was divine. Coming from an Italian background and just loving pasta in general, I have never tasted pasta like this before. Sure, I have had complete dishes that I have thought were on par with this dish and some even better, but the lasagna sheets themselves were unlike anything I have experienced. The pasta was so light and airy that it felt like it was melting in my mouth and, for a moment, I forgot about all the wonderful flavors contributing to the meal from the sauces and cheese. 

The Beef Medallions with Shrimp Scampi consisted of three 2 oz. tournedos with marinated shrimp, served over orzo. Mixed into the orzo was sauteed zucchini, asparagus, grape tomatoes and fresh thyme. The entire dish was topped with citrus garlic sauce and pesto bread crumbs. I couldn't believe how fantastic this dish was. Not really being a steak girl myself, I was surprised by how much I loved everything. The steak could not have been cooked any better. I requested well-done (no pink) and while you would usually lose some tenderness that way, they didn't. The filet and shrimp paired with the citrus garlic sauce so well. I would not be shocked to learn that careful and tedious precision was taken during the dish conception stage to ensure that the sauce mixed perfectly with the other components of the dish. 

During dinner, the General Manager, Jessica, came to our table. We gushed over the food and the service (our waiter was attentive and charismatic) with her, explained that it was our first time at the restaurant and my birthday dinner. Jessica engaged us in enjoyable conversation and she was a pleasure to speak with. She then offered to comp our dessert choices!

Raspberry Panna Cotta

Milk Chocolate Caramel Cake

The Panna Cotta was mine; the cake was my mom's. As stuffed as we were, we still devoured these delicious Dolchinos (individual samplings). Given that their entree portions are rather large, I'm glad Brio had several Dolchinos to choose from. I had a hard time deciding before finally opting for the Panna Cotta, but also on the dessert menu is Seasonal Creme Brulee (Hazelnut, at our visit), Butterscotch Pecan Bread Pudding and Tiramisu, among others.

Food aside, the service is outstanding. We spoke to no less than 5 employees (some managers and some waiters). We were always paid attention to, in a good and not at all overbearing way. 

Really, I can probably go on and on about what a great experience I had at Brio, but I think you should all try it for yourself. If you have the same experience I did, it'll become a favorite.

Brio offers brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as $5 Martini nights!

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon


Mr. Dunderbak's

Ah, lunch, one of my favorite parts of the day. Living five minutes from a Mr. Dunderbak's certainly has its perks. I called a friend this afternoon and had her meet me for some excellent German food. Besides, I had been craving German foods since going to our local Oktoberfest a couple of weekends ago. I think a trip to German during their Oktoberfest is in my future...at some point.

Even though the menu is pretty extensive, featuring platters, sandwiches, soups, salads, and a list of sides, I had already perused the menu online and knew exactly what I wanted. As an appetizer, we settled on splitting the deep fried pickles.

These pickles were the perfect mix of breading and spices. I love dill pickles, but tend to detest the actual dill herb. But, having tons of dill in the breading didn't deter me from these lovelies. In fact, it enhanced the flavor of the pickle even more, wasn't overly done at all, and matched perfectly with the ranch dressing for dipping. We ate these without even pausing to let them cool down. You know when you eat something really hot and then you attempt to chew and blow hot steam out of your month, all at the same time? Yeah, that was us.

Next, we ordered our main meal. I decided on the Schnitzel Sandwich (Pork) with a side of Garlic & Herb Pan-Fried Potatoes and my friend Jackie ordered the Schnitzel Salat (Pork). 

The Schnitzel Sandwich is a pork cutlet lightly breaded and topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, set on a kaiser roll. The Sandwiches are typically served with potato chips and a pickle spear.

Piled high with pork cutlets, the Schnitzel sandwich is pretty large. For only $7.99, I'd say it's quite the bargain. Just like with the pickles, the breading on the pork is perfect, non-greasy, and pairs well with the other parts of the sandwich. 

Mmm, potatoes. Herbs + garlic = yummy. I really enjoyed these potatoes, especially with a little ketchup. (I later heated up my leftovers at home and topped them with Sriracha sauce, which goes well with anything.

The Pork Schnitzel Salat: crisp greens, cucumber, carrots, red cabbage and tomatoes, topped with breaded pork cutlet. I think I'll get this next time!

In addition to their delicious meals, Mr. Dunderbak's is known for their beer. They are the only German-American beer bar in Tampa, and have been for the past 40 years. They have 55 draft beers and over 400 beers in the bottle. 

As you can probably tell, Mr. Dunderbak's has shirts, candy, cookies and their marketplace (pictured) sells cheeses and meats traditionally from Europe. Also for purchase are steins, glassware, and homebrewing kits. 

From Thursday-Saturday, live German and American music from local bands can be enjoyed during dinner. Especially with the nice weather we are having, spend your meal sitting in the handful of tables they have set outside and enjoy! 

Mr. Dunderbak's on Urbanspoon


Acropolis Greek Taverna

Working in St. Petersburg two days of the week certainly has its perks. I've discovered some new restaurants to frequent during lunch hour and I went with my boss to Acropolis Greek Taverna, a favorite of mine, for lunch the other day. It was one of those days when I was so rushed that I had to skip breakfast so when we finally made our way to eat, I was pretty much ready to devour everything in sight.

With 4 locations in the area (Ybor City, New Tampa, Riverview, and St. Pete), I'm no newbie to this amazing greek restaurant, but I'm always discovering new items to try from the menu. (I'm such a sucker for greek food.)

When we sat down and were greeted by the waiter, he told us about the specials, which included a nice bowl of french onion soup. (I'm a sucker for french onion soup too.) I decided to go with the Patra Sandwich, side Greek Salad, and that bowl of French Onion Soup.

Piled between 2 pieces of the most amazing bread in existence, the Patra comes with thinly sliced smoked turkey breast and topped with red onions, tomatoes, lettuce and your choice of either onion aioli or kalamata olive caviar spread, and it's my favorite thing to eat at Acropolis. The orange sauce you see in the photo is the onion aioli, which soaks into the bread and makes the sandwich THAT much better.

Like I mentioned, at nearly 2pm this was, unfortunately, my first meal of the day. So, I gobbled up my greek salad and french onion soup before the idea of taking a picture even entered my mind. Suffice to say that while I still think it's debatable weather potato salad really belongs on a greek salad, this is my preference and Acropolis doesn't disappoint. In addition to the greek dressing, they also have a light drizzle of olive oil over their salad which just works to enhance the flavor of everything in the dish. Their salad is light and refreshing and honestly, I could probably drink their dressing.

The french onion soup had a unique taste. I couldn't pinpoint an exact herb that made this french onion soup a little different from every other one I've had, but it worked to its favor and combined the perfect amount of cheese, bread, broth, and onions. 

Our meals were amazing (my lunch partner opted for the Horiatiki Salad- a traditional village salad topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pepperoncini, olives, feta cheese and fresh oregano, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and fresh lemon)! After eating, we had to head back to the office, to-go boxes in hand, to continue working. But, Acropolis really is perfect for lunch dates/meetings and dinner. In fact, I think I'll go again soon. 

Acropolis Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon


Burger 21

It was September 18th and my boyfriend and I had tentative plans to go to The Colombia (a Florida and specifically, Ybor City, staple) for their 1905 day where all menu items revert back to the prices from 1905, when The Colombia first opened their doors. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work at the last minute and given that lines are usually pretty long and tiresome, we knew we wouldn't make it in time for dinner. 

Instead, I decided to treat him to Burger 21, rated the Best Burger in Tampa Bay by Creative Loafing Magazine. I had been here once before with some friends and remember thinking that I had never tasted a burger quite like the one I had. I knew Mike would enjoy it just as much. 

The first time I visited, I opted for The Shroom, a burger with lettuce, tomato, sauteed crimini mushrooms and onions, and fontina cheese, served on a brioche bun with garlic butter. 

I loved that the burger was overloaded with mushrooms (one of my favorite things to eat). The bun was crispy and had the perfect flavor. I didn't feel like I had to add any condiments to enhance the flavor of my burger either. 

This second time, as much as I wanted to re-order The Shroom, I decided to try something else. I decided on the BBQ Bacon Burger, topped with lettuce, tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy onion strings, and sweet hickory barbeque sauce, on a sesame bun.


I don't think it's possible for this burger to get any juicier. Normally, I keep away from BBQ burgers. As much as I love BBQ sauce, I find that a lot of burger places just overload and that ends up being all you can taste. Because I had such confidence in Burger 21 to deliver an amazing burger no matter what the ingredients, I wasn't worried. And, I wasn't disappointed. This burger has the perfect combination of crispy (just adding onion strings increases my pleasure in consuming food items by, oh, about 100%), savory, and sweet. 

Mike ordered the Tex-Mex Haystack, which comes with lettuce, tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, guacamole, crispy onion strings and chipotle-jalapeno sauce on a brioche bun. Unfortunately, he devoured it too quickly and I did not have time to take a picture. Suffice it to say that it was beautiful and amazing.

By the way, if you are in love with the idea of condiments, like I normally am, Burger 21 offers a wide array of different sauces (8 in total). With my shoestring fries, I tried everything from Toasted Marshmallow to Chipotle Mayo to Thai Ketchup to Apple Cider. 

Burger 21, aptly named due to their 21 different burgers available, offers beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, shrimp, and tuna burgers. They offer sliders, hotdogs, and salads. They also offer regular and sweet potato fries, which I recommend you visit the Sauce Bar to complement. Finally, they offer hand-dipped floats, malts, shakes and sundaes. 

Burger 21 comes highly recommended by many visitors. Located in Westchase and soon opening in Carrollwood, I can promise that it will become a "must visit" restaurant in the Tampa Bay area.

Burger 21 on Urbanspoon


Basic Salad

I love a good salad. I can go for oil & vinegar, balsamic, ranch, italian, greek, chef, fruit...the possibilities for a great salad are endless. When I'm making a salad at home, I tend to make the same salad over and over again. It's so basic, but it's also so delicious.

For my basic salad, I just throw some romaine lettuce, tomato, croutons, shredded cheese (any kind), and cucumbers into a bowl. I also add some salt, pepper, and oregano. Next, I make my favorite part of the salad.

Sauteed mushrooms and onions make this salad, in my opinion. After they have sauteed for a couple of minutes, I add some balsamic vinegar. I like the mushrooms and onions sit in the vinegar for another couple of minutes. Both mushrooms and onions really tend to absorb spices and whatever they are being cooked in. 

After everything is mixed together, I drizzle olive oil, honey, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and a little bit of apple cider vinegar (plus, the balsamic vinegar from the mushrooms and onions) over it. I don't measure these items and I suggest you don't either. It's all personal taste and preference. Sometimes, I'll use less vinegar and sometimes, I'll use more. What I can say is that the possibilities to create different tastes for your dressing are endless.


Do you made homemade dressing?


Blogger Brilliance Conference- Tampa!

Weeee!, I attended a blogger conference, Blogger Brilliance, on Saturday here in Tampa! I had such a good time! Here is my recap:

Jackie and I went together! (picture by Katie!)

Hosted by Bon Bon Rose Girls and White Book Agency and sponsored by Keratherapy, Blogger Brilliance was a success!


This is a bad picture, but our expert panelists for the day included:
I highly recommend that their blogs and websites are checked out. They all had great things to say during panel. They spoke about creative blogging (including the importance of original content, using your voice, tapping into your passion, honing your niche, knowing your audience and best blogging practices) and business and technical blogging (including working with brands, the future of monetizing blogs, banner ads and sponsored posts, building your brand, and starting a small business).

For Blogger Brilliance, attendees had the option of purchasing either a fashion or a foodie track. Given that I'm crazy about food, I'm trying to build up this blog, and that I think food makes the world go 'round, (also given that I think I lack a study fashion sense), I selected the Foodie track, which included a cooking demonstration and food tasting by Chef Daniel of Pelagia Trattoria

For the panel sessions, all attendees were together in the same room. We all received a notepad to take notes on, a swag bag that included mall coupons and gum, and products from Keratherapy.

(included Keratin Infused Argan Oil, Keratin Infused Deep Conditioning Masque, and Keratin Infused Leave-In Conditioner- all 100% safe with no formaldehyde)

Upon leaving the panel sessions, Fashion Track attendees went to the fashion show going on at International Plaza, hosted by TIM GUNN (squeee!), and featuring Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, and Lucky Brand collections. As much as I love Tim Gunn, I decided to grab some food at Cheesecake Factory prior to my Foodie Track started. Leave it to me to eat before I eat. I went with my friend Jackie and my new friend, Snacky Jackie!

Mmmm, carbs.

Fried Mac & Cheese. I'm a glutton.

Wontons stuffed with crab meat and cream cheese

Chicken Piccata 

After stuffing ourselves, we headed to the remainder of the fashion show and caught the tail end where Tim Gunn was answering questions from the audience. He was talking about proportion and fit, different trends, and helping attendees understand fashion. 


At 2pm, our Foodie Track started! We headed to Pelagia Trattoria, still stuffed, but excited for the tasting!

With @snackyjackie!! (Twitter)


We started with cantaloupe and used one piece per "spice". We had sugar (it made the cantaloupe bitter), lime juice (masked the taste), sea salt (delicioso!), cayenne pepper (pretty okay), and MSG (enhanced the flavor). Chef Daniel wanted us to see how different spices can change the flavor of a food.

We were then treated to a cooking demonstration and food tasting of ravioli and berry panna cotta, along with a glass of Grappa.

Filling the ravioli!

Veal, ricotta, spinach, and sage-stuffed raviolis. I don't even like veal and it was the most amazing thing I've ever had in my life! AND Chef Daniel made the actual pasta from scratch.

Berry Panna Cotta- so, so, so good!

Raspberry Plum Grappa! So strong, but so great!

Their different Grappas. We received a jar of their Pear Grappa to take home, along with a card for a free appetizer or dessert for our next visit!

Tampa residents and visitors: VISIT PELAGIA TRATTORIA! Their food is absolutely amazing and we had the greatest time!

Jackie and I met @tampamama, Marisa!

From 1-3:30pm, Neiman Marcus was hosting a Blogger Lounge where attendees could take a break, relax on some couches, and enjoy treats and drinks. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, since I wouldn't trade my experience at Pelagia for anything!), we arrived around 3:45 and no one was there anymore. There were still goodies, though, including Neiman Marcus look books and magazines, a Neiman notebook, and a lipstick pen.

Blogger lounge.


The very last stop of our day was Gabriella's, a lounge in the Renaissance Hotel, where all Blogger Brilliance attendees came to indulge in more Pelagia appetizers.

I officially met Kristin from Bon Bon Rose Girls!!! Eeeeee!

Manchego cheese with honeycomb on a baguette

Goat cheese, pesto, and a tomato on a slice of toasted baguette and gamba-style shrimp with tarragon sauce

We met TIM GUNN! He happened to be sitting in Gabriella's and was so open to taking pictures. He also made it a point to shake hands with and ask the name of every single person there.

Okay, so my head is blocked and this will be my only opportunity to take a picture of Tim Gunn ever, but I'm there and it was exciting and he insisted we take a picture with my personal camera. Awesome.

I really did have a best time at the Blogger Brilliance conference and I can't wait for the next one!

Have you ever been to a blogger conference??


Foods & Drinks in North Carolina (Sunday)

I sure did eat a lot while in North Carolina over Labor Day weekend. We went to the Farmer's Market and to Cook-out Restaurant (where I got a burger, fries, hushpuppies, and a cheesecake chocolate chip milkshake- all SO GOOD) on Sunday morning/afternoon before my friend's wedding that evening! 

I don't have a picture of anything...except the wedding food, which was amazing. I mean, I salivate now just thinking about it. The couple got married at La Residence, a restaurant with a fantastic layout. 

On the menu:
1. Smoked Macaroni & Cheese
2. Wild Mushroom Shepard's Pie
3. Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tart
4. Sliced Sweet Potatoes
5. Green Beans with Roasted Almonds

For dessert, we had cookies, brownies, and an apple/blueberry crisp! (I didn't even take a picture of these items because I devoured them so fast and started dancing!)

La Residence Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon