A Few of My Favorite Things with Katina Holland

30 Minute Entrees

It’s Groundhog Day!  People across the nation will watch as Phil announces whether we will have 6 more weeks of winter or if spring is around the corner.  As holidays go, this is certainly one of the stranger ones we celebrate.  It seems fairly fickle to predict the weather using a rodent seeing its shadow.  It is what it is though.  Let’s take a brief look at groundhogs and how this all started.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are the largest rodent in the squirrel family and generally weigh 12 to 15 pounds. They love vegetables and fruits, but also eat small insects like grasshoppers and snails.  Groundhogs live in burrows that can be up to five feet deep with two to five entrances, but they are excellent at climbing trees and swimming.  They go into hibernation in the late fall around October or so. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They whistle when or looking for a mate (or if frightened) which is why they are also known as whistle pigs.  They come out of hibernation for good in March. 

It’s believed Groundhog Day itself has roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day.  This is when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The weather predicting animal was usually the badger at this time although it depended on the region.  Some used a bear at first until they grew scare.  Then, they switched to the hedgehog. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs as they were similar in appearance and groundhogs were far more abundant.  Regardless of what was used, it was always a hibernating animal and the criteria has always been if it’s cloudy, he can’t see his shadow and spring is around the corner and if it’s sunny, he sees his shadow and we have six more weeks of winter. 

The most famous groundhog is, of course, Punxsutawney Phil whose full name is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.  What a mouthful!  The first publication of a Groundhog Day observance was in 1886 in a newspaper called Punxsutawney Spirit.  There was just a brief mention that stated "up to the time of going to press, the beast has not seen its shadow".  In 1887, the Punxsutawney Elks Lodge held the first official ceremony in Gobbler’s Knob.  The same newspaper editor, Clymer Freas, declared Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s official weather-forecasting groundhog.  The city has had a ceremony every year since.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was formed in 1899 and they took over the planning of festivities.  They also organized a hunt and feast of groundhogs, which has since died out due to lack of interest.  This group was originally made up of groundhog hunters, but today even you can join the Groundhog Club for a yearly membership fee of $15.00.  There is also a birthday club and a Jr. club for the kids to join.  They have created a recipe book you can purchase and all kinds of groundhog merchandise.  They go all out with their groundhogging! 

The ceremony has turned into quite an extravaganza as well.  Originally, you could easily find a couple thousand people turning out to watch the ceremony and see Phil’s prediction.  In 1993, Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray was released in theaters and the popularity of the ritual exploded.  These days tens of thousands of people show up to watch.  The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has turned it into a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities including breakfast with Phil, crowning of Little Mr. and Miss Groundhog, and the Groundhog Ball to name a few.

According to the Groundhog Club, there has only ever been one Punxsutawney Phil since 1886. Yes, that’s right, one.  They claim every September, Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has an Annual Picnic where Phil receives the Elixir of Life Groundhog Punch. With each sip Phil takes, he receives seven more years of life and longevity. So, to do the math- Phil is at least 133 years old. This past September alone, they claim he took 4 sips of the Elixir. That makes for one very old groundhog!  Whether you believe it or not is another story, but it is entertaining at the least.

Phil has also been known to travel quite a bit over his many years.  Phil met President Reagan in 1986, Oprah Winfrey in 1995, traveled to Indianapolis for March Madness college basketball and went to New York City for the Puppy Bowl to name a few.  That little critter certainly gets around!  

This week, I want to share quick and easy meals that will take you 30 minutes or less to prepare and will be easy for you to fix even after a hard day at work.  When I started this column, I mentioned I like quick and easy recipes.  I have given you some of those but I feel like I have strayed from that concept somewhat.  This week’s recipes will easily pair with green beans or carrots or corn or even beans.  Cook some simple sides together with your entrees and/or bread and you can easily have your dinner in 30 minutes or less.  Meet me in the kitchen for these busy weeknight dinners.

Shrimp and Pepper Fajitas

Prep time about 10 minutes

Cook time about 15 minutes

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 Tbsp Southwest seasoning blend, such as McCormick, (you can also use taco seasoning) more or less to taste

1 yellow pepper, sliced and seeded-feel free to use 2 or 3 if your family likes more pepper

1 large onion, sliced into strips

1 cup quinoa or white rice, uncooked

8 warm corn or flour tortillas 

Sour cream, salsa, scallions, limes, etc. for toppings as desired

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with 1 tsp of the Southwest seasoning, more or less to taste. Add to skillet and cook 2 minutes on each side or until pinkish in color. Remove to a plate.  Add peppers and onions to skillet. Season with salt and 1 tsp of the Southwest seasoning. Cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Add up to ¼ cup water if mixture becomes too dry. Stir in shrimp. Meanwhile, cook quinoa following package directions, usually about 15 minutes, adding remaining 1 tsp Southwest seasoning. Remove from heat.  Wrap shrimp-and-pepper mixture in tortillas and serve with quinoa and toppings of your choice.

Recipe adapted from familycircle.com


Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops

Prep time 5-7 minutes

Cook time 15-20 minutes

2 Tbsps unsalted sweet cream butter, divided

4 boneless pork loin chops (4 ounces each)

3 Tbsps brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

4 medium tart apples, thinly sliced

2 Tblsps chopped pecans, optional

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add pork chops; cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer inserted in center of chops reads 145°. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Remove chops; keep warm. Add apples, pecans, brown sugar mixture and remaining butter to pan; cook and stir until apples are tender. This will depend on how thin you slice the apples.  This should take 5-10 minutes.  Serve with chops.

Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com.


Parmesan Crusted Tilapia Fillets

Prep time about 10 minutes

Cook time about 10 minutes

¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese 

2 tsps paprika 

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley 

Salt and ground pepper to taste 

4 tilapia fillets 

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk Parmesan cheese, paprika, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a shallow dish.  Feel free to taste the coating mixture and adjust it to your taste. I often add garlic powder as well!  Coat tilapia fillets with olive oil and press both sides into the Parmesan cheese mixture. Arrange coated fillets on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes.

Recipe from allrecipes.com.


Steak Salad

Prep time about 15 minutes

Cook time about 5-10 minutes depending on how you like your steak

Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces

Red onion, thinly sliced or diced as desired

3 cups fresh baby arugula, optional

Cherry tomatoes, halved

Cheese as desired

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound steak 

½ cup red wine vinegar

3 Tbsps lemon juice

1 Tbsp honey

½ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

To make vinaigrette, mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.  You can also mix in a large mason jar and shake to blend.  Using the blender is just quicker.  If you prefer a ready-made dressing, you can eliminate this step.  In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, red onion, baby arugula, cherry tomatoes and cheese as desired. Toss the salad with enough vinaigrette to coat or just use as much as you like on each plate individually.  Season the salad with salt and pepper, to taste.  Grill steak or sauté over medium heat until meat reaches desired doneness. I like medium rare so I only cook mine about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Let steak rest until ready to top the salad.  Arrange the salad on a platter.  Cut the steaks into thin slices. Arrange the steak slices atop the salad and sprinkle with the more cheese if desired. Drizzle more vinaigrette over the steak slices and serve.

Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com.


Beef Taco Skillet

Prep time 5-10 minutes

Cook time about 15-20 minutes

3 lb ground beef

1 large onion, diced

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Tomato Soup 

1 cup picante sauce, more or less to taste-sometimes I use the whole jar

½ cup water

6 flour tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips

Taco seasoning to taste

1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, more or less to taste

Toppings as desired-we like to use sour cream and scallions.

Cook the beef and onion in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until well browned, stirring often to separate meat.  Drain grease.  Stir the soup, picante sauce, water, taco seasoning and tortillas in the skillet and heat to a boil.   Reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Stir the beef mixture.  Top with the cheese.

Recipe adapted from campbells.com.


One-Pot Cheesy Barbecue Chicken Rigatoni

This recipe assumes you have leftover chicken that you can shred or you can buy precooked chicken from the deli at Walmart and shred it yourself.  It saves on the cook time.  

Prep Time 5-10 minutes

Cook time about 20 minutes

2 tsps olive oil

2 cups shredded cooked chicken 

6 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

½ cup diced red onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 box rigatoni pasta 

2 ¾ cups chicken broth 

½ cup barbecue sauce

1 cup grated Italian blend cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Heat oil in deep 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Cook chicken, bacon, 1/4 cup of the onion and the garlic in oil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add pasta and chicken broth; heat to boiling. Cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce and the cheese. Continue cooking 1 minute to melt cheese.  Serve topped with remaining 1/4 cup onion, 1/4 cup barbecue sauce drizzled over top, and cilantro.

Recipe adapted from bettycrocker.com.


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