Eat Pray Love

The reason for the title of this post is four fold.
1. I loved the book and movie
2. My blog is all about me eating (cooking!)
3. I always say a few prayers while I cook (and this time I needed more than a few!!)
4. My food is always filled with love…AND love is in the air this week (my sister is getting married!!!)

So there you have it!

I had planned on spending Sunday making lasagna and tiramisu and had bought (so I thought) all of the necessary ingredients on Thursday.  I really thought I was ahead of the game and dinner would be beyond simple. I thought wrong.

On Saturday I was beyond tired, and so after enjoying brunch with my friend Gina at Nookies, I came back to my apartment to watch a movie and take a nap. While laying on the couch, I decided to look over the lasagna recipe, just in case I had missed anything, when I suddenly realized the lasagna needed to be baked half way and then sit in the refrigerator over night in order for it to set. There went my relaxing Saturday…good thing I don’t have the ability to nap anymore and enjoyed spending the day cooking!

Right away I realized I  needed to make a run to the local grocery store (it is only a block away!) and grab some Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. I also needed more pasta and a red bull for a good afternoon kick. I made three trips back to the store that day….

I made a huge pot of tomato sauce and let it cool off in the fridge while I started on the lasagna filling.

My new kitchen!

I cooked the sausage and the ground beef and seasoned (first mistake). I thought I would get creative and use my Grandpa’s seasoning on the meat. I always use it on meat and it is delicious, so I figured this would be a brilliant idea. Once again, I was wrong. It made lasagna way too salty. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but salty.

The cheese filling was fairly easy to make, but I didn’t have a large enough mixing bowl and the cheese was getting all over the counter. I must say that making the lasagna was the messiest kitchen adventure I have had thus far, but it was well worth it. I didn’t have time to make homemade noodles for the lasagna unfortunately, but I am pretty sure if I would have attempted that I would have gotten in a little over my head. The Barilla (cl) lasagna sheets worked out just fine and I am sure my dinner guests were happier I went with that route anyway!

I was extremely nervous about the lasagna because I had used my Grandpa’s seasoning, not realizing how salty the cheese already was, and the mixture was way too salty. I had cooked it half way through and it still tasted extremely salty. I was so disappointed and warned the birthday girl that we may need to order pizza, but luckily, once the lasagna was cooked all the way through, it was edible and actually was good!

Uncle Michael’s Lasagna

Uncle Michael’s Lasagna

*Makes 2 pans

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef

1 lb Italian sausage

1 lg onion (chopped)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 lb grated Romano cheese

5 lbs ricotta cheese

10 eggs, beaten

2 lbs whole milk mozzarella cheese (shredded)

4 tsp Parsley

1 large pot of spaghetti sauce (my quick sauce will be perfect!)

2 lbs dried lasagna sheets

2 baking pans (11.5 X 9.5 X 2.5)

1. Brown the beef, onion and sausage together and drain well. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, mix salt, pepper, and 2 cups of the Romano cheese into the meat mixture.

2. Mix together ricotta cheese (drain well before mixing), eggs, mozzarella, salt, pepper, parsley and 2 cups of Romano cheese. Mix until smooth.

3. Cook lasagna noodles half way through and drain.

4. Layer ingredients in pan in this order: sauce, pasta sheet, cheese mixture, meat mixture, sprinkle of Romano cheese, sauce. Repeat to fill the pan and end with a pasta sheet. Cover the top layer with plenty of tomato sauce and sprinkle with more Romano cheese.

5. Cover pans with Aluminum foil. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes. Let cool in the refrigerator overnight to allow the lasagna to set. This will make it easier to slice and serve!

6. To reheat, add more sauce and recover. Cook for 45-50 minutes at 350°

Here are a few tips/things I learned from my lasagna kitchen adventure:

  • Don’t bake saran wrap in the oven, even if the directions call for it. I was using my Uncle Michael’s recipe, but he used industrial plastic wrap, not the type you have in your kitchen. So beware! Good thing I had my mom walk me through the steps before I actually did any damage.
  • Cooking lasagna half way through and then allowing it to sit in the refrigerator overnight helps it to set and will cute easier
  • Lasagna does not need any extra seasoning, except for salt and pepper
  • Always make extra sauce (Even if you think you have enough!)

The lasagna was ready and I wanted to make sure I had all of the ingredients for the tiramisu. I had run out of time and needed to start getting ready for Laura’s birthday dinner, so I made my third and final trip to the grocery down the street. The woman who works in the store probably thinks I’m nuts. The next morning I woke up bright and early, feeling pretty tired, but started making the Tiramisu. The ingredients are below. I don’t know if it was because I was so “tired” or if tiramisu is really that hard to make, but I was afraid to try the first bite. I usually am all about tasting my food as I go along, but I did not taste one thing until later that night at dinner. It did not look like tiramisu, the lady fingers freaked me out and soaked up the coffee so quickly they were falling apart, and the chocolate wouldn’t chop in my processor so they were more crunchy in the dessert. I didn’t have a double boiler, but sitting one pot on top of another seemed to work just fine. After the tiramisu was finished and in the refrigerator to set, I threw on some shorts and headed to my first ever Sox and Yankee’s game!  It was an eventful weekend, to say the least, and I was exhausted!

Tiramisu Ingredients

My “double boiler”

 

Everyone had a pretty rough weekend, so dinner ended up being just me, Laura, and Maegan! Everyone enjoyed the lasagna, and to my surprise, the Tiramisu not only tasted like tiramisu, but it was really good!! I made Laura and Maegan have the first bite before I would try it and believe it was actually edible. Sorry this post is long, but it’s been over a month since my last kitchen adventure, and this one was a doozie!! I will post the recipes when I am back home next week and everything has settled down. The wedding is in 2 days (!!!!) and I am back home in Indianapolis preparing. If anyone has ever seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” this is going to be that multiplied by 2. My next post: The Big Fat Italian Wedding.

PS – Check out the new website we launched at work for Fuel Up to Play 60 (CL) http://www.fueluptoplay60.com

Tiramisu

Ingredients:

3 lg eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. milk

16 oz. mascarpone

1/4 c. amaretto

1 tsp. vanilla extract

30 Lady Fingers

1 1/2 c. cooled espresso or coffee

1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. almonds, chopped and toasted

Sliced strawberries for garnish

Cocoa powder for dusting

Mix the egg yolks and sugar until mixture is a pale yellow. Add the milk and stir until combined. Transfer to a double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon. Do not boil. Transfer immediately to a clear, cold bowl to cool. Once mixture has cooled, whisk in the mascarpone, amaretto, and vanilla. Dip 10 lady fingers lightly in espresso and arrange in two rows in a 2-quart glass dish that has been lightly buttered and sugared. Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chocolate and the almonds. Repeat the layering two more times. Dust with cocoa powder. Let sit the refrigerator over night. Garnish with strawberries and serve.

Happy 25th Birthday, Laura!!!

 

 

 

 

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Lucia!

Vodka and I have had a tumultuous relationship for years, but last night I think we finally started to understand each other…

As I sat at work reading my sisters wedding menu, I had the urge to cook, and  I couldn’t decide what the perfect dinner would be. I had to do something fairly simple because I was going to get home later and still had to go to the store. As I sat and thought about all the different sauces I have been wanting to make, I had a flash back of my first experience with Vodka Sauce. And at that moment, I knew I had to make it.

The first time I ever had vodka sauce was at my favorite restaurant in Italy, Aqua al Due. Laura and I decided to share (I swear…) the pasta sampler. One of the samples was the vodka sauce and it was so good that I am pretty sure I licked my plate. I couldn’t wait to get back and try it again, but to my surprise,  the menu rotates and they didn’t have it when I returned.  Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of trying it again. It was quite possibly the biggest heartbreak I’ve experienced to date, and I’ve had a few…

Anyway, I’ve never made a vodka sauce, so it was the perfect time to give it a go. I am not big on following recipes when I make sauce. I think it is way more fun to throw the basic ingredients in, add a few more, and see what happens, so here is Vodka Sauce a la Me.

Vodka Sauce

Vodka (I prefer Smirnoff – but maybe that is because of my budget…)

Heavy whipping cream

2 cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce (CL)

Olive oil

Pepper

Basil

3 Boneless chicken breasts

David Page’s Special Seasoning

Clean the chicken and season with David Page’s Special Seasoning. Slice into small pieces and saute in olive oil until cooked about half way (until outside is cooked). Add the sauce, whipping cream (a little less than 1 sauce can) and the vodka (I measure about 1/4 cup, but then added more once it was cooking…). Add pepper and basil. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 20 minutes. I added more pepper and basil while it was cooking for more flavor.

The Sauce Cooking with the Chicken

Bring your water to a boil once your sauce comes to a boil and then add the pasta. Once the pasta is finished, your sauce should done. Pour sauce in a bowl, add the pasta, mix and serve!

When my roommates and I sat down to enjoy our dinner, little did we know the amazingness we were about to experience. I thought we would just each have a small serving and there would be leftovers for our other roommate to try when she got home…but that did not happen. It was gone. All of it. Nikki and Alyssa even discussed combining their extra sauce from their plate so that it did not go to waste. I don’t know if it was my Grandpa’s special seasoning, the vodka, or my cooking skills, but this sauce had a kick to it, and it was good. Alyssa even thought she would be able to eat it as a soup. I am pretty sure I spooned my left over sauce to finish it. There is about a cupful left over and it tempting me – even though I saved it to share with Jess…She better get home in time, or it might be gone by this weekend.

Before…

I will admit that I did not share all of the ingredients I used. It was so good, I figured that maybe one day, in my dream world, if I have my own restuarant I would be able to have this on the menu and if I share the entire recipe then everyone will know how to make it! But it shouldn’t tast much different with the ingredients included above, so I HIGHLY suggest you trying to make it!

After…

Multiply this picture times 3 because that is how many empty plates there were! This was, and still is, my all time favorite sauce. I don’t know how I am going to go without it again for so long. Hopefully I will get back in the kitchen this weekend because I have a feeling the next few weeks are going to be crazy! My sister has two bachelorette parties coming up and then I am moving into my new apartment! I can’t believe August is just around the corner….

Let’s Get Saucy!

So Sunday night my roommates and I were exhausted after a very long and fun weekend, so we wanted to something quick and delicious for dinner!  My sister Gina had been in town all weekend for her first dress fitting (I can’t believe the wedding is in 70 days!!!) and we went to the beach Saturday, so overall it was a non-stop kind of weekend.  Did I mention that in 70 days I have to give probably the most important speech in my life? And it will be in front of around oh…500 people?  Ya. 70 days are going to fly by…

Even though I was exhausted I still wanted to make dinner and I wanted it to be good, so I went to my most reliable recipe  that I keep in my back pocket – my quick sauce.  I have combined a few family recipes to create my own and I think it is oh so delectable.

Quick Tomato Sauce

1 can of Hunt’s tomato sauce

1/4 onion

1 clove garlic

1 bouillon cube

Skim milk

Pepper

Finely dice the onion (I chop and then add into the mixer to make extra thin) and then saute in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and some pepper and let simmer.  Add the can of sauce, bouillon cube, and skim milk (fill up tomato can about 1/4 of the way) and add more pepper.  Boil your water and then add the pasta.  Let the sauce come to a very slow boil and then simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes while your pasta is cooking.  Add more pepper if necessary.  Serve and enjoy!!

This time I got a little more creative than normal and decided to dice up some cherry tomatoes and add them into my sauce.  I added them to the onions and garlic while they were cooking and sautéed them as well. The sauce turned out really good, which is surprising considering how tired I was from the weekend!  I highly recommend trying out this recipe, even if you aren’t looking for something quick!  And I definitely recommend Hunt’s – it’s the only tomato sauce I’ll use!

So I am back home again in Indy this weekend for lots of wedding stuff!  We have a couples shower on Friday and Sunday my two aunts and I are hosting a shower!  The shower is going to be so pretty and I can’t wait to share pictures!  I spent a lot of time planning and picking out everything for the big day with m Aunts – so hopefully everything is just perfect!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Ladies and Gentleman Start Your…Cooking!

Back home again in Indiana.  That song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  Maybe it’s because I’m proud of where I come from, or maybe it is because I am laughing so hard at the thought of my dear friend crying at the race a few years ago after spending a semester in Paris.  She was so happy to be home and so proud of being a Hoosier – the song (or maybe the beer?) literally brought her to tears.  Anyway, when I think of the Indianapolis 500, I think of that song and the roaring sound of engines revving to go.  My favorite part of the race is the noise.  I opt out of ear plugs because that loud noise makes my heart skip a beat.  I guess I really am a Hoosier.

The Indianapolis 500 – Turn 1

Jordan – Enjoying the In Field (it was over 100°)

The weekend was not only filled with tears, Hoosier pride, and loud noises – it was filled with a lot of food, a ton of laughs, and great people.  Monday my family celebrated Memorial Day and the graduation of my brother, Jack, from high school.  The very thought of that brought tears to my mothers eyes – not a song.  I woke up bright and early to a kitchen filled with food, tables, drinks, and a to-do list that made my head spin.  My Dad had gotten up around 5 to carve out a watermelon “basket” and fill it with fruit, make a caprese salad, and set up all the tables before he headed out for a round of golf.

You see, we were not preparing for your typical family barbeque.  We were preparing for an Italian family barbeque, and those are two very different things.  The first would require minimal effort, not supplies from a rental company (good thing we have one in the family).  The first would also not require the amount of food that was stocked in my house or the amount of food that would be brought over later in the afternoon.  It would not require 7 different kinds of desserts, 4 dips, 2 cheese balls, and about 5 different meal options.  OH…and it definitely would not include the need to make some plain pasta because a cousin refuses to eat anything but pasta with butter and cheese.

Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

1 bottle of English Cheese

1 Package of Cream Cheese

Minced Onions

Crushed walnuts

Mix the english cheese and cream chese with some minced onion (not too much) until the 2 cheeses have blended.  If you mix too long the ball will not form so be careful.  Form into a ball and cover in crushed walnuts.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Trifle

Ingredients:

Raspberries

Blackberries

Strawberries

**You can add any fruit you would like

Pound Cake

2 tubs of Cool Whip

1-2 packages of Vanilla Pudding

Line the bowl with cut up strawberries and layer the bottom of the bowl with sliced pound cake.  Add cool whip and vanilla pudding generously.  Make sure to add enough so the pound cake does not dry out.  Top with cut fruit.  Repeat each step until bowl is full.   Top with cut fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

When you combined two very large Italian families for a party, what you get is something a little short of a mad house.  There are 20 cooks in the kitchen, 10 people trying to clean, 15 children weaving in and out of the kitchen at all times, and that doesn’t include the other 50 people who are roaming around, eating, playing cards, swimming, and anything else you can imagine.  I always wonder what the “outsiders” are thinking when they are brave enough to venture into our world.  It is always amusing watching their heads dart back and forth trying to pick up on at least one loud conversation going on, but I’m sure they pick up a few pieces of each story and have no clue where to begin trying to put the pieces together.

Annabelle Playing by the Pool

A Meeting of the Minds

There was enough food that day to feed an entire army, and it did.  The appetizers were delicious and my trifle was a success, even though we forgot about it in the basement refrigerator until the very end of the night when there were only about 10 of us left.  Good thing everyone had a little bit so it didn’t go to waste.  Overall it was a great day.  It’s always nice to come home to family, especially mine!!

**More pictures to come!!

Chicken Salad Obsession

So I was pretty bummed about not being able to have a kitchen adventure on Sunday, so I thought I would throw one in during the week!  The other night I realized I had put chicken in the refrigerator to thaw, and since I am leaving for the weekend, it needed to be cooked.  I am obsessed, and I mean this whole heartedly, with the Chicken Salad at Whole Foods.  You can ask my roommates and they will attest to this and explain to you my sick obsession with it.  Since Whole Foods is not in my budget on the regular…I thought I would try to make my own version!

Ingredients:

3 Boneless Chicken Breasts

Light Mayonnaise

Pepper

Craisins

Sliced Almonds

Red Grapes

Clean the chicken breasts and boil for 10 minutes.  Simmer for another 10 or until cooked through.  Do not over boil the chicken or it will dry out.  Once the chicken is cooked, shred in a bowl.  Add about 5 tablespoons of the mayonnaise or until there is enough covering the chicken (do not add too much or it will be soggy).  Add pepper to taste (if you can’t see the pepper, there isn’t enough).  Add the craisins, almonds, and grapes (sliced), mix together and let sit in the refrigerator until cooled.

This is kind of  a big deal for me, considering I tried chicken salad for the first time last August!  I really am starting to branch out when it comes to food…finally (thanks to my family and Ryan’s constant nagging).  I looked up a few recipes, but decided to jump ship and just come up with my own based on ingredients around the kitchen.  I boiled three chicken breasts and then shredded the chicken. Shredded is always the way to go in my opinion. I added light mayonnaise, pepper, craisins, red grapes, and sliced almonds (they are supposed to go in salads and were pre-packaged) and mixed together.  I let sit in the fridge over night, ready for me to take to work the next day!

It was so delicious!!   Alyssa and Jess were my tasters and they approved.  I will definitely be making this again and probably often!

No Joke…I am STUFFED!!

So the peppers were MORE than a success.  I am sitting on the couch right now so stuffed from all of the delicious food from tonight’s dinner.  I am so glad I was able share my passion with such wonderful company tonight.  It is so nice to be able to enjoy great food and great company at the same time!

The recipe I posted the other day for the peppers is not necessarily correct, so making dinner tonight was, as usual, an adventure.  My mom and I wrote down a recipe the last time she made the peppers, the first time I ever learned to make them, and we did some guesstimations (I think I made up this word, but you get the point).  They were not so accurate…I had to make more rice than I thought, I used all of the sauce (I thought there would be some left over to freeze) and I didn’t end up using all of the peppers.

We went to the grocery store today and the peppers there were a joke!  The red peppers were so small and the yellow peppers were not ripe.  We ended up buying organic red peppers (which were $3 a pepper!!!).  That is just insane.  They were huge as well, which is probably why I did not need to use all of them.  For some reason the rice kept burning (of course I can make homemade pasta sauce, but fail at making rice.  Typical), but once I used a smaller pot and made a larger serving of rice, it turned out perfectly.  My sauce was delicious.  I made Jess taste it and once she said she could just keep eating spoonfuls of it, I knew it was done.  The beef didn’t seem to have enough flavor with the salt and pepper, so I did what I always do when my food needs more flavor,  I added my Grandpa’s seasoning, David Page’s Special Seasoning, and it tasted delicious!  For proof, check out the photo’s below.  My friends went to town on the stuffing before dinner was even in the oven!

All in all, tonight’s dinner was a successful Kitchen Adventure!  It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.  I am so excited for the warm weather here in Chicago and cannot wait for summer!  Next week I will be heading home for Easter, my FAVORITE holiday!  I am going to attempt baking some really pretty Easter desserts to share with my family…hopefully I won’t get as nervous as the last time I cooked for my family (they are all food snobs, but they are wonderful).

Here is a recap of Sunday Dinner below.  I could write more about dinner, but I will spare boring you with my words, and instead, make your mouth water!

Preparing the peppers!

Getting “Stuffed”

Stuffed Red Peppers


Our Lovely Family Dinner

Good and “Stuffed” – Proof Dinner was a Success!

~Jess made Chocolate Covered Strawberries~

I hope you enjoyed seeing another Kitchen Adventure and I hope the pictures inspire you to try them yourself!  I have felt so creative and challenged since starting this blog.  I hope to be able to inspire others as well!  Since it is spring and the sun is starting to shine again, everyone needs to indulge in their passions a little and jump into Spring!

I am coloring Easter Eggs this week, so hopefully there are more kitchen adventures to come before Easter.  The last time my roommate Alyssa colored Easter Eggs she stuck her entire hand into the dye to get out the egg.  Don’t judge her, she had never done this before..but I am very glad she reminded me of the incident today.

Night!

I’m “Stuffed”!

This Sunday I have decided to go back to the traditional, tried and true family recipes.  I am going to make Stuffed Peppers.  This meal is again one that I have made with my mother, but have never tried.  I love the rice stuffing, but I’ve never actually eaten it with the pepper.  My mom makes these for our Christmas Eve dinner and they are usually gone pretty quickly.  Most people in my family love them, so hopefully I won’t mess up this time!  And if I succeed…maybe I can take them over so my mom can lose about an hour of holiday stress this year!

My roommates are already planning on helping me with dinner and we are all going to the grocery on Saturday.  I am glad they are just as excited as I am about having family dinners on Sunday!  My friend Jill is coming into town tonight and we have reservations at Sushi Samba.  I am vowing to try something new when I go, so hopefully I will have something to fill you in on after this weekend!  I am getting nervous just saying that, but hopefully I will stick to it now that I have put it out there into cyber space…

So here is the Sunday dinner recipe.  If you are feeling like you need a challenge, or want to join in on the fun, make this for dinner Sunday and share your thoughts!

Stuffed Peppers (makes about 16 peppers)

8 Peppers (4 red and 4 yellow)

2 1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 large onion

2 1/2 cups cooked rice

3 1/2 cups sauce (this is usually pre-made so I will have to make my own batch!)

Salt & Pepper

Peppers:

Cut off top of peppers

Cut in half, but make sure to cut down the line where you will have a more concave pepper

Make sure to clean out so the pepper can hold the rice stuffing

Beef:

Heat in a pan until brown

Add onion (chopped)

Add salt & pepper

Drain once cooked and put back in pot

Rice:

Cook according to box

Add to meat mixture

Add 1 1/2 cups sauce

Preparing Entire Dish:

Add sauce to the bottom of pan

Stuff each pepper with rice and add to the pan (try to fit them as closely together as possible).

Cook at 350 degrees for an hour.

Also ~ Stay tuned next week for some fun Easter treats and even a Passover dessert in Honor of Ms. Alyssa Linder!

If I stick with it and actually join her during Passover I am going to make a special Passover dessert I found in Cooking Light!

Wellness Week

For the past two weeks I have been trying to eat healthy, watch my calories, and exercise.  I’ve been walking home from work, and trying to snack healthier at work on fruit (thank you Antonia for the case of Blood Oranges!!).  My family is coming to visit this weekend and in fear of not having enough time to cook dinner on Sunday, I thought I would share a simple recipe with you (this was NOT healthy and was my last indulgence for some time…hopefully)!

Monday, I came home from work stressed, tired, and starving.  I had to weigh myself at work on Tuesday, so I thought I would indulge in my last super unhealthy meal for a while, and maybe be a little heavier for the weigh-in so I could lose more weight.

I didn’t have much to work with, so I decided to make Pasta with Shrimp and Peas in a cream sauce.  This is a pretty easy meal to throw together if you have the ingredients and it does not take more than 20 minutes to make.

I started boiling my pot of water and cooked the shrimp.  For the sauce, I heated up some olive oil and then sautéed the garlic.  Once it started turning translucent, I added heavy whipping cream and skim milk,  the frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste, and a  bouillon cube.  I can’t tell you measurements because when I cook dinner for myself I go off of instinct, and luckily it usually turns out.  I only follow strict recipes when baking because I think baking is an art form and requires certain amounts of ingredients in order to turn out properly.

After the pasta was finished, the sauce had come to a boil and was finished (be sure to not boil to long or over cook because the milk will curdle) I served over linguine and indulged!

Luckily, my roommate Alyssa was eating with me (once again my biggest fan) and made us both a salad.  Good thing…

The sauce was so good I had it again for dinner last night, but this time, I poured it over the leftover Strata from Sunday’s dinner.  Surprisingly, the strata was better than before and tasted great with the sauce!

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes when wanting a quick and delicious dinner, so I hope you try it out and share your thoughts!

Have a great day and Happy St. Patrick’s day 🙂

A True Kitchen Adventure II

A typical cousin dinner would not be the same without some elaborate element, so Gina and Concetta decided to get gorgeous table settings for our dinner from A Classic Party Rental.  Working at a rental company definitely has its perks for our small gatherings!  They were both so much help Saturday night and I am pretty sure my sister’s house would have been burnt down had they not been helping in the kitchen!

Dinner was all in all a success, if you take away the potential grease fire, the chocolate burning, and Gina’s oven somehow catching on fire.  For dinner I made Smashed Red Potatoes, Stuffed Chicken and Grilled Asparagus.  You can find all of these recipes on the my Recipe page.  The potatoes are so easy and are great for dinner parties!

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients:

Asparagus

Salt and Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

Lightly salt and pepper asparagus.  Add parmesan cheese as desired.  Cook for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees.

 

Smashed Red Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 bag red potatoes

Chicken Bullion

Whipped butter

Salt and Pepper

Parsley

Optional :

Sour Cream

Cream Cheese

Clean and cut potatoes into fourths or even smaller if needed.  Add to a large pot, cover in water,and add chicken bouillon cubes (about 5 or 6 small cubes or until water is yellow).  Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until red skin starts to fall off.  Drain potatoes, but leave about a measuring cup full of water.  Put back into pot and add butter, salt and pepper.  If potatoes are dry, add more of the bouillon water.  Add salt and pepper to taste and smash with a fork.  For more “mashed” potatoes use a whip.  These potatoes can be made more mashed or left whole but slightly “smashed.”

 

After dinner, we played Things (my favorite game ever) and then an intense game of Cranium.  It was so great being home for the weekend and getting to see my family.  After a very stressful week last week trying to plan this dinner, I am excited to be cooking for non-Italians again, and especially my boyfriend who will be visiting from Vail!!  He is usually always a fan of my cooking, even if it doesn’t turn out, or at least he let’s me believe he is…

From L to R – my soon-to-be brother-in-law Grant, my sister Gina, cousin Tommy, brother Jack, cousin Concetta, Steve (Antonia’s boyfriend), and my cousin Antonia.

Saturday was by far my favorite Kitchen Adventure!  Something I have discovered while learning to become a better cook, it takes a couple of disasters to help you grow in the kitchen!

A True Kitchen Adventure

Last night’s dinner was, to say the least, an adventure.  I learned four things last night.

1. You should melt chocolate on low heat or over boiling water.

2. How to make caramel.

3. Oil should be 350 degrees and will turn food into charcoal if too hot.

4. Cooking in a kitchen full of Italians is chaos.  Actually,  chaos does not even begin to describe it.

My wonderful sister Gina surprised me with a new cookbook for desserts in honor of my “Kitchen Adventure.”  We decide to make a dessert together from the new book for dinner last night and it was pretty good!  We made a caramel chocolate shortbread bar.  My sister was in charge of the caramel and it turned out great.  At first we were getting nervous.  I was in charge of the chocolate.  I have never melted chocolate so I put the heat onto 3 and walked away for a minute.  When I returned my sister was laughing because the chocolate was no longer creamy and had to be thrown out.  Good thing she keeps extra chocolate bars around!  For some reason the condensed milk didn’t blend well and ended up showing up around the edges of the pan, so we had to cut up the dessert before showing anyone.  It didn’t look appetizing, but it tasted great!

For an appetizer I had wanted to try something new so I decided to make “Caprese Wonton Salads.”  I have never fried anything in my life, and to be honest,  I almost burnt down the kitchen.  The directions were not very clear and obviously intended for someone with more experience.  I ended up heating (on high) about 4 inches of oil (WAY too much).  When I put the wonton’s into the oil, they immediately turned BLACK.  The kitchen filled with smoke and everyone started to panic just a little bit.  Italians are dramatic in nature so you can imagine the scene in my sisters kitchen that ensued.  My cousin Tommy came to the rescue and dumped the oil and “lumps of coal” onto a pile of snow in the front yard!  We called my cousin Concetta (who actually is a chef) and she properly instructed on how to fry my wonton’s.  Once finished they were DELICIOUS.

I am so happy we got to try them and a few actually turned out.  We brought in one of the “charcoal lumps” and Steve was brave enough to open it up and try the insides, which actually tasted like an oven baked pizza!  I can’t wait to make these great appetizers again and am excited I learned how to fry!

Tommy "saving the day" with the burning Wonton's
The finished product with the "lump of coal"

Ingredients:

Pack of wonton wrappers

Roma Tomatoes

mozzarella

Basil leaves

Sea Salt

Water

Add a slice of tomato, mozzarella and basil leaf to a wonton wrapper.  Lightly salt.  Dip your finger in water and coat the edges of the wonton, cover with another wonton wrapper.  Coat the edges of top layer and fold up.  Continue until you have desired amount of wonton’s.

Once all wonton are prepared,  heat about 2 inches of oil in large skillet to 350 degrees.  Do not allow oil to get too hot.  Use tongs to set a few wonton’s at a time in the oil and cover with a lid.  Carefully watch as the wonton’s will cook quickly.  Once the bottom starts to brown, flip wonton’s to other side and allow to cook.  Place on a plate covered in paper towels.

If desired,  prepare a small cup for dipping with Balsamic vinegar.