Friday, October 30, 2009

Food Spotlight: Salad Lover

As I'm sure you can tell, I love eating pasta and pizza. I will NEVER go on a low-carb diet as I would definitely be perma-grumpy! I love to overload on carbolicious foods, but I also eat a ton of vegetables. My favorite way to get my veggies is to have a side salad with every dinner and an entree salad for lunch a couple times a week.

To make a delicious salad I suggest three elements...
1. Crunch (nuts or crunchy veggies such as carrots or peppers)
2. Sweet (fruit such as apples, pears or dried cranberries, or a fruity vinaigrette)
3. Creaminess (Avocado or cheese- feta, goat and blue are my favorites)
Optional 4. Protein (meat or beans make it a meal)

Here are some of my yummiest salads from this week!

Shrimp and Feta Salad
Shrimp (protein)
Feta cheese (creamy tang)
Kalamata olives (salty bite)
Tomatoes (freshness)
Garbanzo beans (more protein)
Slivered almonds (crunch)

Cobb Salad
Hard boiled eggs (protein)
Avocado (creamy)
Tomato (freshness)
Red or green onions (flavor and crunch)
Blue cheese (salty and creamy)
Garbanzo beans (more protein)

I love to serve garlic bread with cobb salads and then dig out the yummiest ingredients to pile on top- tomatoes, avocado, cheese and onions- for mini-bruschetta!

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
Pears (sweet)
Blue cheese (salty and creamy)
Pistachios (crunchy)

Do you have a favorite salad? Please comment with your favorite combination of flavors! YUM!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Spaghetti and Meatballs... That's Amore!

Spaghetti and meatballs is my favorite food. Period. There is just something about a pile of hot spaghetti smothered in thick garlicky red sauce with freshly grated Parmesan cheese that makes my mouth water. Add a couple meatballs oozing with more cheese and garlic and I'm in heaven. It really doesn't get any better than this!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Meaty, cheesy, noodley perfection for the Godfather in you! 
Serves 4

For the meatballs
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage (or 3 links removed from casing)
1/2 c. Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tblsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tblsp. minced red onion (optional) 
1 tblsp. dried oregano
1 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil (in meatballs)
4 tbslp. extra virgin olive oil (for cooking)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

For the spaghetti
1 lb. spaghetti
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil 
1 tblsp. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping

To prepare meatballs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat large skillet with 4 tbslp. extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Work with your hands until ingredients are mixed. Do not over mix. If mixture seems dry add another egg. If mixture seems too wet add more breadcrumbs. Form into evenly sized meatballs (in between a golf ball and tennis ball size is perfect.) Once the meatballs are formed place them in large skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side on all four sides. Once the outside is lightly and evenly browned place in casserole dish coated with non-stick spray. (Reserve skillet with meatball juices.) Cook meatballs in oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven. (You will add them to pasta sauce, see below.)

To prepare spaghetti: Boil noodles in large pasta pot according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat meatball skillet with juices over medium heat and add onion, green pepper and garlic. Saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Add jar of pasta sauce, stir to heat, and then turn heat to low. Add meatballs to pasta sauce and cook together for a few minutes while noodles are finishing cooking. Drain noodles and place on four plates. Top each pile of noodles with sauce and a few meatballs. Finish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. THAT'S AMORE!!!

Recipe author: Sarah Saubert

Wine of the Night
There is no better wine to pair with my favorite Italian meal than my favorite Italian wine- Chianti. I drank Chianti frequently while living in Italy, and it is the wine that made me fall in love with wine. When I stick my nose in a glass of Chianti and breathe in the rich, earthy aromas I am transported back to Tuscany- to lazy afternoons on piazzas, to boisterous pizzerias with flirty pizza-makers, to carefree strolls in the Etruscan hills- to happiness. The Chianti of the night was Gabbiano, and I saw this wine everywhere in Florence. It was a frequent "house wine" offering at neighborhood restaurants and was incredibly affordable. Thankfully, it's easy to find and affordable here in the States too. Ahhhh grazie alla Italia!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Baked Potato Soup and Southwestern Roll Ups

A cloudy and cool Fall Sunday is a perfect chance to make a big batch of soup. I wanted to make a soup that was hearty and delicious, so I chose baked potato soup. Oftentimes baked potato soup in restaurants is a cream-based soup. While delicious, it's not the healthiest thing in the world. For my batch I chose a broth-based recipe, and it was every bit as delicious as the heavy cream-based kind. The soup was scrumptious and warming, and even the football watching boys loved it!

Baked Potato Soup
A hearty, delicious, heart-warming classic! 

Serves 4-6

4 ounces bacon, small dice
1  onion, finely chopped
5  garlic cloves
1 russet potato, large dice
2  red potatoes, large dice
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 quart (8 cups) chicken stock
1 sourdough baguette, cut into1-inch pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream, for garnish
3 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Heat bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat until crisp and fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plated with a slotted spoon and discard all but 1 tablespoon drippings.

Return pot to stove and add onions and garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add potato and stir to coat. Add vinegar and scrape up any browned bits. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees and arrange a rack in the upper third.

When soup is ready, ladle into 8- to 12-ounce ovensafe bowls and top with two baguette slices. Pile cheese and bacon on top and repeat to make 4 to 6 servings. Place on a baking sheet and place in oven until cheese is melty and browned, about 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool slightly, top each bowl with a dollop sour cream and a sprinkling of green onions and serve.
Recipe provided by Aida Mollenkamp,, with some adaptations by Sarah.

Along with the soup I served a fun and funky appetizer, Southwestern Roll Ups. I love ordering these as an appetizer at restaurants, but unfortunately restaurant versions are often fried, overburdened with greasy cheese, and served with fattening dip. Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls with Avocado Ranch have 910 calories and 57 grams of fat! That's too much for an entire meal, let alone an appetizer. I found this recipe on, and made a few changes to make it as delicious as possible. This healthier version is delicious and guilt free!

Southwestern Roll Ups with Avocado Ranch Sauce
Southwestern flavors all rolled up 

and oozing with tastiness!
Serves 2

3 medium-size tortillas
1 small cooked skinless chicken breast; shredded
2 tbsp. canned black beans
3 tbsp. canned corn; drained
2 oz pepper jack cheese; shredded
1 tbsp. diced red chili pepper or chipotle in adobo
3/4 cup frozen chopped spinach; thawed & thoroughly drained

1/2 avocado
2 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 tbsp. reduced fat Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1/2 diced tomato
dash pepper (or more, to taste) 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine chicken, beans, corn, cheese, chili pepper and spinach in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Warm tortillas in the microwave for 15 seconds. On a clean, flat surface, lay out tortillas side by side. Put 1/3 of the chicken-spinach mixture in the center of each of tortilla. To assemble each of the rolls, fold the left and right sides in (so none of the filling escapes during the cooking process), and then roll up from the bottom of the tortilla until you reach the top. Place all 3 rolls (seams down) on a baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12 minutes, flipping rolls over about halfway through cooking.

While the roll ups are in the oven, combine the sour cream, avocado, and Ranch dressing in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and blended. Season to taste with pepper. Top your dipping sauce with the tomatoes just before you serve! Once the roll ups are done baking, allow them to cool for a few minutes. Then cut each in half diagonally, arrange them beautifully on a plate, and serve with the dipping sauce. Mmmmmmm!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Chicken Tortilla Soup and Jalapeno Corn Bread

Last night I was in the mood to make something NEW. I tend to stick to a repertoire of Italian food, but I think it's important to try new foods and flavors. So I decided to make Mexican food, but not the typical burrito/taco ho hum. I went for a brand new recipe and made chicken tortilla soup with chipotle peppers and fire roasted tomatoes. Along with it I made the easiest jalapeno corn bread ever, and the sweet and spicy combo was divine- especially when dipped and crumbled into the spicy soup. The meal was different, as I had hoped, and made for some great leftovers. Make a big batch to keep on hand for several days- the flavors only get better as they rest!

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Peppers and Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Gooey cheese, crunchy chips, and spicy soup make this meal a belly warming pleaser!
Serves 4

3 cups chicken stock
1 pound chicken tenders (or breasts cut into strips)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
4 slices thick, smoky center cut bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons sauce
1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
4 cups lightly crushed corn tortilla chips
2 cups shredded fresh smoked mozzarella (3/4 lb)
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/2 red onion, chopped
Freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish

Bring broth to a simmer and add chicken tenders, poach 6 to 7 minutes with a bay leaf.

While chicken poaches, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a medium soup pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp then remove with slotted spoon. Drain off excess fat, leaving 2 to 3 tablespoons in the pan. Add onions and garlic to the skillet and cook 5 minutes then stir in chipotles and tomatoes.

Remove chicken from stock, dice and then add to soup. Pass stock through a strainer then add to the soup.
Place a pile of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup bowl. Cover liberally with smoked cheese then ladle the hot soup down over the top. Serve with lime, raw onions, extra cheese, tortilla chips and cilantro at table to finish the soup.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray,

Jalapeno Corn Bread
Sweet, crumbly corn bread with spicy jalapenos is a perfect accompaniment to the soup!

Serves 4-6

2 boxes Jiffy corn bread mix
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk
1/2 can chopped jalapenos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare corn bread according to package instructions. Once batter is formed stir in chopped jalapenos (use more if you like it extra spicy, or less if you just want a touch of heat). Bake 15-20 minutes until corn bread is lightly browned. Let rest before removing from pan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Greek Flatbread Pizza

Last night I threw together an unexpected dinner. Kevin was traveling so I was cooking for one, and I didn't have much food on hand. I did not want to go grocery shopping, so I decided to raid the fridge and make the most of it. It turned into a fantastic meal! I had Archer Farms Garlic Naan (from Target) in the freezer, and it made a perfect pizza crust. Naan is an Indian flatbread, and Target's version is also phenomenal simply warmed up and served with extra virgin olive oil or dipped in hearty soups. I simply topped the flatbread with ingredients I had on hand- tomato sauce, onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese- and before I knew it I had a hot and delicious flatbread pizza with unique Greek flavors! (It was so yummy I used a second piece of naan and had two- shhhh!) Enjoy this recipe, the ingredients are easily kept on hand and it is sure to impress your spouse, company, or just yourself!

Greek Flatbread Pizza 
Chewy sundried tomatoes, salty kalamata olives and tangy feta cheese make this an unforgettable meal!
Serves 1

One piece garlic naan (or your favorite single-serve flatbread or pizza crust)
3 tblsp. tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
5 kalamata olives, halved
5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, optional
Parmesan Cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread tomato sauce on flatbread and season with oregano. Top with garlic, onion, olives, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese. Bake from 10-12 minutes until flatbread is lightly browned and toppings are warm. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top with freshly grated Paremsan cheese and a few grinds of cracked black pepper. Slice and serve.

Wine of the Night: Venta Morales Tempranillo
And just because I was eating alone does not mean I went without wine! I enjoyed a glass of Venta Morales Tempranillo from Castilla- La Mancha Spain with my dinner. It is medium-bodied, slightly sweet, and smooth with a sharp finish that complements the tangy feta. It's also a steal, at $6-8 a bottle. I definitely recommend this wine with a variety of foods except spicy foods, as it cannot stand up to the heat in spicy dishes. Wine Advocate gives it an 88 and calls it a phenomenal value that over-delivers with fragrant black cherry aromas, ripe, round, savory fruit on the palate, and excellent depth and length.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Food Spotlight: Wedding Weekend with Amazing Food!

This past weekend my dear friends Sandy and T.J. celebrated their wedding. I was so happy to be a bridesmaid and had an amazing time! I was incredibly impressed by the beautiful decor, thoughtful details, unique customs and, most importantly, the food! You never know what you're going to get at a wedding. More often than not the food at events that serve 200+ people is mediocre at best. However, the food at Sandy and T.J.'s rehearsal dinner and wedding was phenomenal!

Friday Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner took place at Enjoy! Restaurant in Apple Valley, MN. The restaurant is decorated as a romantic Tuscan villa, and I fell in love with it. The rehearsal dinner for 60 people took place in the Fireplace Room, and it was a beautiful space for an intimate gathering. 

Bridesmaids with the bride-to-be in front of the fireplace.

My amazing dinner- Walleye with maple honey butter atop whipped sweet potatoes and fresh green beans. Walleye is a Minnesota specialty and this meal was incredible! (Recipe below)

Sandy and T.J.'s wedding was perfect, and the reception was a blast. The decor was tasteful and beautiful. Here is the head table centerpieces surrounded by flowers. It was a gorgeous setting for a great meal!

The starter salad was deliciously unique. It was tender bibb lettuce with shredded carrots, candied walnuts and a ginger-French dressing.

The main course was also delicious. It was roasted chicken smothered in creamy white wine sauce atop wild rice stuffing, and served with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. Yum!

Don't forget the wedding cake! This five-tiered beauty was a Buttercream masterpiece. The two flavors were dark chocolate Irish cream and lemon raspberry. Divine!

Enjoy Minnesota walleye at home! This tried and true recipe adapted from is sure to please.

Corn Flake Walleye with Whipped Maple Butter

4 walleye fillets
1/2 box Cornflakes crushed as finely as possible
2 eggs with dash of milk for batter
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper to crushed Cornflakes, if desired
 Olive or vegetable oil, for pan frying
4 tblsp softened butter
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt and Pepper

Heat oil (1-1 1/2 inch deep) over medium heat. Dry fillets with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Dip walleye fillet in egg batter and let excess drain. Roll fillet in crushed Cornflakes and place in heated oil. Turn fish once or twice until easily pierced with a fork. Drain on plate lined with paper towels.

Combine softened butter and maple syrup. Serve dollop atop each fillet. Enjoy!

Serves 4. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Easy and Delicious Dinner Party Menu

Last night I had the pleasure of making a meal for Sandy (who is getting married on Saturday!), her sister and Maid of Honor Jen, and my boyfriend Kevin. After running around all day in preparation for Saturday, Sandy was really looking forward to a delicious homemade meal, a glass of wine, and relaxing and enjoying herself before the chaos of the wedding weekend. Having to soon squeeze into a wedding dress, I knew that Sandy would appreciate a healthy meal. I also knew that I wouldn't have much time to cook. So I put together a yummy, healthy and quick-cooking meal for our dinner party. The meal was a success and it was a treat to spend time with the bride before her big day!

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Tangy blue cheese and tender pears dress up any salad!
Serves 4

One 5 oz. bag mixed spring salad greens
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 pear, sliced
4 tblsp. pistachios (roasted, shelled and salted)
1/2 c. sweet vinaigrette dressing (I recommend Trader Joe's Chardonnay, Pear and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette)

Empty bag of salad greens into large bowl. Add crumbled blue cheese and sliced pear and toss with salad dressing. Divide into four bowls and add 1 tblsp. pistachios and fresh cracked black pepper to each.

Tip: Buy cheese in bulk and crumble it yourself. It is less expensive,  fresher, creamier and tastier than the pre-crumbled kind.

Photo credit: (all other photos in this post by Sarah)

Shallot Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Cajun Sausage

Garlicky, oniony spaghetti combines beautifully with spicy sausage and mild tomatoes. 
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 shallots, halved then thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 container grape tomatoes
1/2 c. white wine
3 Cajun or Italian sausages

Preheat oven to 425. Halve tomatoes and roast on cookie sheet in oven for 20 minutes.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil with the butter over medium-low heat in a skillet with high sides. Add garlic and shallots and season with salt and pepper then cook gently until caramelized about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta, salt the water very liberally then add spaghetti and bring to a rolling boil. Cook to al dente. Add 1 ladle of starchy cooking water, about 1/2 cup, and 1/2 cup of white wine to the shallots and stir. Drain pasta and add to shallots. Add the parsley, tomatoes and cheese and more black pepper, to taste. Toss 1 to 2 minutes for liquid to absorb and serve alongside sausages.

Tip: Cook with shallots whenever you'd use onions or garlic. They are a delightful mix of both flavors and add unusual and satisfying complexity to dishes.

How to cook sausages
Heat medium skillet with sausages, 1/4 inch water and 2 tblsp. olive oil over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, turning sausages occasionally, until liquid evaporates (approximately 10 minutes). Cook 4-6 minutes more for skins to crisp up, continuing to turn occasionally.

Base pasta recipe provided by Rachael Ray,, doctored up by Sarah. 

Roasted Lemony-Garlic Broccoli

Lemon juice freshens up the broccoli as garlic enhances the depth of flavor. 
Serves 4

3 heads broccoli, cut into florets
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oiil
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread broccoli on pan and add olive oil, lemon zest and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to evenly distribute flavors. Roast in oven for 20 minutes. Remove broccoli into serving bowl. Squeeze half of a lemon over broccoli and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Lemon Parsley Bruschetta

Fresh lemon and parsley with crunchy garlic bread.
Serves 4

One loaf take-and-bake french bread
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice loaf the long way and separate into two halves. Drizzle with olive oil and then squeeze fresh lemon juice onto bread. Salt to taste. Place on cookie sheet cut side up and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until crispy on the edges. Remove from oven and top with fresh parsley. Slice and serve.

Wines of the Night

We enjoyed a red and white wine with tonight's meal. The red wine of the night was Cosentino Legends Cabernet Sauvignon. Kevin and I bought this wine while we were in Napa. Cosentino is an up-and-coming cabernet powerhouse, and this bottle is delicious. It is a Bordeaux-style wine and is spicy and complex. Learn more about it:

The white wine we enjoyed was Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc, a South African white wine that is crisp and refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the wine with the spicy sausage, and felt that it cut well through the intense flavor. I would recommend this wine for cooking and with food. It is incredibly affordable!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Strips

When I was younger I would order chicken strips at every restaurant. Lightly breaded, crunchy on the outside, warm on the inside, with a plethora of dipping sauce choices (I favored honey mustard), what's not to love? Well, it turns out, the calories and fat in chicken strips at restaurants is out of this world. The Chicken Crispers at Chili's, for example, have 1,750 calories and 121 grams of fat! You could order the Bacon Burger and save 600 calories! Outrageous! Needless to say, I no longer order chicken strips in restaurants anymore. But, that doesn't mean that I don't still love them! So I developed a fool-proof and fabulous chicken strips recipe to make at home. These strips have all the crunch and sauciness that I crave, without all the fat and calories. Whip up your own for game night or a casual meal in and you'll never go back to the gut-busting restaurants' "chicken" again!

Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Strips

An all-time favorite without the guilt!
Serves 2

8 raw chicken tenders, thawed (or 4 small breasts cut in half)
1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tblsp. milk
1 tsp. hot sauce, optional
Salt and pepper
1/4 c. oil (olive or vegetable)

Preheat oil in large frying pan over medium heat.

Make your breading station. (pictured)
Bowl 1: Flour
Bowl 2: Egg, milk and hot sauce, whisked to combine
Bowl 3: Bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese

Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken. Working with two tenders at a time, dip tenders in flour bowl and turn to coat. Shake off excess flour. Dip in egg bowl to moisten. Finally, dip in bread crumbs to evenly coat. Carefully place in hot oil to pan fry. Repeat method to bread remaining chicken and place in pan.

Fry chicken on first side for 4-5 minutes, then flip with tongs. Allow to fry for 3-4 minutes on side two, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. (Add more oil if pan seems dry; big strips may need more time.) Remove chicken from pan and drain excess oil on paper towels.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces, cole slaw and waffle fries for a delicious restaurant meal at home!

Recipe author: Sarah Saubert

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Food Lover's Paradise: New Orleans (Final Post #3) and Recipe Spotlight: Shrimp Etouffe

Saturday in New Orleans was an unforgettable day. My girl friends and I spent the day touring around the French Quarter, had lunch at Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square, and had dessert at Cafe du Monde. As if that wasn't good enough, on Saturday night we went to NOLA, Emeril's restaurant in the Quarter, as a special treat for Sandy's bachelorette party. She was thrilled to learn that we had chosen NOLA and had assembled a group of 12 girls to dine out on some of the best food in New Orleans. Needless to say, it was an special day with fabulous women and amazing food!

Saturday Lunch

I had crawfish etouffee for lunch at Cafe Pontalba in the Quarter. Etouffee is a rich stew made with the "trinity" (green peppers, onions and garlic) and loaded with crawfish or shrimp. Crawfish is a New Orleans specialty, and to me the little mudbugs taste of a delightful mix between shrimp and crab. Shrimp is of course easier to find nationwide. Check out my shrimp etoufee recipe at the end of this blog!

At Cafe Pontalba we sat at a table that was practically outside. I think that the restaurant's food is delicious but a bit overpriced. However, the location on Jackson Square and open-air breeze cannot be beat! Here I am pictured with Lindsey and Jen, both friends of Sandy's through pharmacy school (who are now friends of mine) who were in town for the weekend.

After lunch we had the best dessert EVER- beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde! Beignets are fried doughnuts smothered in powdered sugar. Cafe au lait is Colombian coffee with milk, and together with the beignets it was the perfect snack and pick-me-up!

As you can see these are not regular doughnuts! The insides are chewy and light, and the powdered sugar on top is the perfect sweet addition to the yummy treat. And it's only $1.82 for three!

Saturday Dinner

For dinner all the ladies went to NOLA, Emeril's restaurant in the French Quarter. We had an amazing experience with good wine, great food and tons of laughter. The wait staff did an exceptional job of taking care of us, and even took a few pictures with our group!

I had the Garlic Crusted Texas Redfish, and it goes down as one of the best things I've ever eaten in New Orleans. It was cooked in the wood burning oven with brabant potatoes, crimini mushrooms, bacon and beurre rouge sauce, and it literally melted in my mouth The garlic crust gave it a deep, intense flavor that stuck with me all night long! :)

Sandy had the Shrimp & Grits- sautéed gulf shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-Abita butter. Shrimp and grits are a famous Southern dish served anytime of day. Emeril's version had sweet and succulent shrimp atop grits so creamy they almost could have been butter whipped potatoes. The grits gave the dish an excellent Southern flair! 

The bride-to-be and I in front of NOLA's famous open-air kitchen. I personally love kitchens that are open to the restaurant because it gives diners the opportunity to interact with chefs and appreciate the amount of time and work it takes to produce a fabulous meal. The energy pours through the restaurant and really enhances the dining experience!

Sunday Dessert

As a special treat on Sunday we went to Sucre, a dessert bar across the street from my old apartment, where we enjoyed amazing Italian gelato. Gelato is similar to ice cream but is made without eggs and with less air, providing a denser and more flavorful treat.

Sucre is well known for their beautiful individual desserts. These treats (almost) look too yummy to eat!

Sandy and I in front of the delectable homemade chocolate bar. Their gift boxes are a perfect takeaway treat for the flight home!

New Orleans Recipe Spotlight

Now it's time for a little bit of New Orleans goodness in your kitchen! I made this recipe for shrimp etouffee after getting back from my trip and was impressed with it's depth of flavor and ease. It's pretty close to a trip to the Big Easy!

Shrimp Etouffee
Creamy stew with fluffy rice and tasty shrimp is New Orleans comfort in a bowl! 
Serves 4

4 tblsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 (8 oz.) bottles clam juice or clam sauce
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 c. hot cooked white rice

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes or until very tender and onion begins to brown, stirring frequently. Place onion mixture in a bowl.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in pan. Stir in flour to make roux and cook 6 minutes or until flour turns a deep rust color, stirring constantly. Stir in Cajun seasoning, thyme and clam juice and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in back in onion mixture, and add tomato and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thick. Add green onions, salt and shrimp and cook for 6 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring occasionally.

Serve over hot cooked rice with your favorite hot sauce and crusty bread.

I hope you enjoyed your trip to New Orleans in the past three posts!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A food lover's paradise: New Orleans (Post #2)

On Friday I enjoyed lunch at Napoleon House in the French Quarter with Sandy and her sister Jen. This amazing restaurant has been there since 1797. 1797! However, it gets even better when you try the food. It's classic New Orleans with one exceptional difference- they have vegetables. Often New Orleans restaurants, especially those in the touristy Quarter, only focus on the main local specialties and don't go out of their way to help diners have a rounded meal. Napoleon House not only has delicious healthy dishes along with their local specialties but is surprisingly affordable. A perfect combination!

Napoleon House (Friday lunch)

The restaurant sits on the corner of Chartres and St. Louis streets in the French Quarter. It's worn facade warms up considerable once you step inside. Snag a table by the open air windows for supreme people watching.

 I enjoyed a muffaletta- well, actually a quarter muffaletta- at Napoleon House. This New Orleans specialty is enormously filling when enjoyed in its entirety, which consists of four wedges similar to the one pictured. It consists of ham, pastrami, salami, swiss cheese, provolone cheese, and olive salad on Italian loaf bread. Napoleon House's version of this classic sandwich is known as one of the best in the city. (See recipe below for a make-at-home version!)

Along with my sandwich I enjoyed a rare treat in New Orleans- a fabulous side salad! This Greek salad featured spinach, red onion, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, kalamata olives and sesame seeds. The combo quarter muffaletta and side salad made a perfect lunch!

Sandy enjoyed a ham po-boy and a side of jambalaya. The po-boy consisted of fresh deli ham, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and mayo. This combo is known as "dressed" in New Orleans. The jambalaya, or "dirty rice" as Northerners often call it, had andouille sausage and chicken, and made for a delicious side dish.

We sat outside in the restaurant's courtyard. The courtyard is a wonderful New Orleans tradition that you can find at many New Orleans establishments. Courtyards are an oasis of quiet within the French Quarter, and allow guests to enjoy their meals outdoors away from traffic and other street hubbub.

After lunch I enjoyed some time bumbling around the French Quarter before meeting back up with the ladies after their walking tour. I decided to go back to the Napoleon House in the late afternoon for their famous cocktail called the Pim's Cup. The Pim's Cup was created in England in 1840 and has since been Napoleon House's signature cocktail. It is refreshing and delicious!

Here is the recipe:
Fill a tall 12 oz glass with ice and add 1 1/4 oz. Pimm's #1 and 3 oz lemonade.
Then top off with 7up.
Garnish with cucumber.

If you're ever in the French Quarter I sincerely recommend this restaurant! But, if you can't make it for a while, spoil yourself with a Pim's Cup and muffaletta, take your meal outdoors, and pretend like you're in the Big Easy!

Italian meats and melted cheese topped with pickled vegetables transport you to the Big Easy! 
Serves 2

1 loaf fresh Italian bread, round if possible
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz. salami, thinly sliced
4 oz. ham, thinly sliced
2 oz. pastrami, thinly sliced (optional)
4slices provolone cheese
4 slices swiss cheese
1/2 cup giardiniera (pickled vegetables, find it by the pickles)

Preheat oven to 350. 

Cut bread in half through the middle. Arrange the sliced meats on the bottom half of the bread, top with giardiniera, and then top with cheeses. Place top half of bread on sandwich and place on a cookie sheet in the oven for five minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is crisp. Enjoy!

Recipe author: Sarah Saubert

Monday, October 5, 2009

A food lover's paradise: New Orleans (Post #1)

This past weekend I went to New Orleans for my dear friend Sandy's bachelorette party. It was a wonderful weekend filled with amazing friends, warm weather, interesting site-seeing and, of course, fabulous food! Today's blog is a tour of some of the best food in America that my friends and I enjoyed over the weekend. New Orleans is a jewel of a city with a one-of-a-kind food culture and I feel blessed to have lived there for a year and a half. I will always go back to visit and enjoy the cuisine- there is nothing better!

I have so many wonderful food pictures to share of my trip that I will post a blog highlighting a restaurant everyday this week so that you can fully appreciate the cuisine.

Up First: Jacque-Imo's Cafe (Thursday Night)

There is no better way to begin a New Orleans weekend than at Jacque-Imo's Cafe. J-Mo's is my favorite restaurant. Period. Check out the pictures below to see why!

The meal begins with melt-in-your mouth cornbread infused with butter and garlic and topped with scallions. Try not to fill up on the "bread" we are just getting started!

Appetizer #1 was Jacque-Imo's classic Alligator Sausage and Shrimp Cheesecake. Sounds weird I know, but with the spicy cream sauce it is so tasty! Alligator is an odd delicacy, it's rather chewy and dense, but the flavor is mild and, since it's smothered in sauce, it's quite tasty!

Appetizer #2 was crabmeat stuffed shrimp. These suckers are huge and are oozing with creamy crab meat. Dipped in the spicy cream sauce they are a delicious starter!

My entree was Eggplant Pirogue. It's a fried eggplant topped with mixed seafood and smothered in a fabulous cream sauce. Sinfully delicious. Entrees at Jacque-Imo's are served with a fried oyster and spinach salad and two sides. My favorite sides are the mashed sweet potatoes and corn maque choux. Perfect complements!

Mitchell enjoyed the Stuffed Pork Chop. This mighty piece of meat was stuffed with ground beef and shrimp and smothered in mushrooms and gravy. A manly meal that even my daintiest female friends have been known to conquer. Once you start you just can't stop!

Jason enjoyed the Crabmeat Stuffed Catfish. These delicate pieces of fish are sauteed in Cajun spices and served atop a bed of fresh crabmeat. Then, of course, they are smothered in a cream sauce! This is one of the best things on the menu. It literally melts in your mouth- no chewing required!

Jenny enjoyed the Pan Fried Venison. The meat was served with a creamy mushroom sauce and was delicious. I'd never had venison before, and Jacque-Imo's sure did make it tasty!

I always like to try something new when I come to Jacque-Imo's, but the one thing I get every time is one of the most delicious cocktails ever invented- Watermelon Mojitos! Fresh chunks of watermelon are mixed with fresh mint and plenty of dark rum for a refreshingly potent cocktail that satisfies every time!

The group- Mitchell, me, Sandy, Jenny and Jason- after the delicious meal. What's next? Bedtime!