Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lasagna Rolls!

I had a group of girlfriends over for dinner last weekend, and wanted to make a fantastic entree that was delicious, fun and elegant, without being too heavy. With this group I am known for my Italian comfort food- I always make some kind of Italian treat for our dinner parties- and this year was no different. I went for lasagna rolls, and they were perfect. The rolls made for an elegant presentation, and the light spinach and prosciutto filling was delicious without being too heavy. The dish was extra special because of the two sauces, a bechemel on the bottom and homemade marinara on top. If you don't want to make the bechemel sauce then you could definitely put marinara on the bottom instead, but the bechemel does give it an extra creamy texture and fancy presentation. To increase the easy factor feel free to use jarred marinara sauce. I made a double batch and my family enjoyed this dish all weekend! These lasagna rolls are amazing, and perfect to serve for any occassion!

Lasagna Rolls
A perfect dish for any occassion- fancy and flavorful!
Serves 6, easily doubled

Bechemel Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the bechamel sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

Recipe courtesy of Giada Delaurentis

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: Carmella's Italian Bistro, Appleton WI

Carmella's Italian Bistro
An intimate and authentic Italian ristorante in Appleton, WI!

Date of Visit: 12/4/10
Diners: Sarah, Natalie, Zach, Stefan, Matt & Kevin

You know when you walk into a restaurant and you immediately know there is something special about it? That’s how I felt when I entered Carmella’s in Appleton last weekend. The restaurant was nearly impossible to find and was sandwiched between a fabric and a battery store in a strip mall, yet it was completely packed. Hmmm, I thought, these clearly aren’t drive-by diners.
Our waiter Anthony came over to greet us and our table instantly liked him. You could tell he knew his stuff, describing the specials in detail with a passion, along with a slight Italian accent that only made him more believable. We later found out that Carmella is his grandmother, and she started the restaurant 75 years ago in New York City. They moved the restaurant to Appleton a couple years ago after her passing, and her children and grandchildren now run the shop.

We cozied up at a table and ordered a bottle of Sass Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) and the special Napoleon to start the meal. It was divine, a unique spin on caprese salad, with more flavor. Juicy yellow tomatoes were layered with fresh mozzarella and crispy prosciutto, drizzled with basil oil and balsamic. It was a perfect example of Italian cooking at its best due to the careful use of the finest ingredients.

I started with an arugula salad, and there was nothing ordinary about it. Baby arugula was lightly dressed in sherry vinaigrette and tossed with roasted figs, candied walnuts and crumbled gorgonzola. This is everything I love about a salad, delicate lettuce enhanced- not smothered- in a flavorful dressing, with a sweet, salty and crunchy component. Fantastic!

I am a sucker for housemade pasta. I see those words, and I gravitate toward it, no matter what. I ordered a simple and classic housemade ricotta ravioli in a fresh tomato sauce with basil. Yes, this is a dish you can find on menus all over the country, but what a joy to eat it when made authentically Italian, with homemade pasta, ricotta, sauce and fresh basil. It literally melted in my mouth.

My dining companion Natalie ordered the Saltimbocca, the dish that Anthony said was the best on the menu. A light marsala sauce enhanced the chicken breast that was smothered in wilted spinach, fontina and prosciutto. Natalie was in heaven while enjoying this dish, and said it was one of the most amazing meals she’s ever had. I took a bite and the saltiness of the prosciutto blended perfectly with the creamy fontina, tender chicken and earthy spinach. Heavenly to be sure.

For dessert, authentic Italian espresso with a seasonal treat- pumpkin gelato over homemade chocolate cake with crème anglais and toasted pecans. It was heartwarming and cozy, bursting with the flavors of the season.

After finishing our meal, Natalie and I were so enamored over our food that we asked to meet the chef, Carmella’s son Larry. Chef Larry came over to our table looking a little unsure, but after a big hug from Natalie he was the happiest guy in the room! We thanked him for an unforgettable meal and he went back the kitchen with a smile on his face. His daughter came up to us afterward and said we made his night, and he couldn’t stop bragging to the boys in the kitchen!

Carmella’s was a meal that I will remember. The delicious food and family ambience immediately made me feel at home, like it was my long-last Italian family and grandmother’s treasured recipes. If you are ever near Appleton, Wisconsin, be sure and pay it a visit, enjoy an unforgettable authentic Italian meal, and thank Chef Larry for his fantastic cuisine. It may be hard to find, but it is worth every effort, as restaurants like this are a rarity and a treasure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baked Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Carmelized Onions

It's freezing outside- time for comfort food! Comfort food is the kind that you not only enjoy eating, but you enjoy making. It is soulful, personal. To me, comfort food is macaroni & cheese. Perhaps its the reference to childhood that makes it so comforting, but this mac & cheese is adult friendly. The bacon adds a rich smokiness, while the carmelized onion with garlic and thyme add a hint of gourmet. But the ultimate comfort is the creamy, gooey cheese. It warms me up from head to toe! I made this dish for two of the men in my life- my husband Kevin and our dear friend Stefan- and they both repeatedly said its one of the best things I've ever made. (It didn't hurt that I served it with mini-corn dogs either!) Make this dish for someone you love tonight!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Carmelized Onions
Smoky, creamy, cheesy... is there anything better?
Serves 6

1 package (16 oz.) elbow macaroni
3 slices bacon
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. fresh Thyme (or half T. dried)
3 T. butter, divided
2 T. flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 T. hot sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard (or Dijon)
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook macaroni to al dente (a minute or so shy of being "done"), drain, and return to pot. Set aside.

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until done, about 2 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease and place back on burner. Add sliced onion to the reserved bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, and saute until carmelized, about 10 minutes. Halfway through add minced garlic and thyme. Stir frequently.

In a sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat melt two tablespoons of butter, add the flour and whisk for two minutes until combined and beginning to brown. Add cream and milk, whisking constantly for another minute. Add all of the cheeses and stir to combine. Add the hot sauce, nutmeg, paprika and dried mustard and stir to combine. Add a good amount of salt and fresh ground pepper- taste to ensure its properly seasoned.

Add cheese sauce, onions, bacon and chicken broth (or water) to cooked noodles. Stir well to combine. Pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered, until bubbling and lightly browned. Enjoy with mini corn dogs and green veggies. Pure comfort!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smothered Enchiladas

Smothered Enchiladas is a recipe that my mom created years ago and my sister and I have been enjoying ever since. These are enchiladas at their most basic and most delicious. The recipe couldn’t be easier, and after months of tinkering with complicated “authentic” Mexican recipes, Kevin told me that these are the best enchiladas I have ever made. And to think, it’s a home-grown family recipe! Needless to say, sometimes you just can’t beat a classic. I promise you that you will LOVE these enchiladas!

Smothered Enchiladas
Easy and delicious for any occasion!
Serves 8
8 large flour tortillas
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pound ground beef
1 can refried beans
1 packet taco seasoning
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, shopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. oil
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat the oven to 375. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, soften the onion and green pepper in 1 T. of oil, about 4-5 minutes. Spread to the outside of the pan and add the ground beef. Cook until browned, drain, then add ½ cup water and taco seasoning. Add refried beans and stir to combine. Turn off heat.

In a bowl combine the enchilada sauce and cream of mushroom soup.
Spread a little bit of the enchilada sauce/mushroom soup mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 casserold dish. Add 1/8th of the mixture into each tortilla, roll up, and place seam-side down in the dish. Cover with enchilada sauce/mushroom soup mixture and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling. Top with fresh cilantro, if desired, and serve with sour cream and guacamole. It’s a fiesta!

Saubert family recipe

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rigatoni with Tomato, Sausage and Goat Cheese

One of the best things about planning a wedding is the food tastings. Kevin and I held our rehearsal dinner at Biaggi's Italian Ristorante, and we got to enjoy a food tasting that consisted of two salads, three entrees, three pastas, two desserts and ten wines. What a fun evening that was! We had the most delicious rigatoni pasta dish, and I just knew I had to recreate it. A few weeks ago I made it from memory, and I have to say it was just as good as the original!

I love this dish for so many reasons. First of all, most of the ingredients are easy to keep on hand. Secondly it is no problem to make a huge portion or just enough for one. Most importantly it encompasses everything I love about pasta dishes- the flavorful sauce enhanced by the tangy goat cheese, the smoky sausage, the fresh basil and the big al dente rigatoni noodles which were made to hold onto this sauce. Trust me this recipe is a keeper!


Rigatoni with Tomato, Sausage and Goat Cheese
A delicious all-in-one meal that you'll make again and again!
Serves 4-6

1 box rigatoni pasta (1 lb)
1 jar prepared pasta sauce
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb. Italian sausage links (about 3)
1/2 cup hearty red wine (Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, etc.)
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade (roll up then slice so you have long pieces)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil and brown sausages until crisp on the outside. Don't worry if the inside isn't cooked through. Remove and reserve. When cool enough to handle slice into bite size pieces.

Use the same skillet and add another tablespoon of oil. Add the onions, sausages and some salt and saute until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. In the final minute add the garlic. Add the wine and let bubble for 2-3 minutes until it begins to reduce. Pour in the pasta sauce, reduce the heat, and let simmer.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. and stir to combine. Pour into a large bowl. Top with basil and goat cheese. When plating make sure everyone gets a hunk of goat cheese. It will melt into the hot pasta and create a creamy, bright and fantastic sauce!

Serve piping hot with garlic bread, romaine lettuce salad, and a big glass of red wine.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tomato Basil Bisque with Prosciutto and Smoked Provolone Paninis

I'm back! After taking a break for my wedding, I'm so excited to be back and blogging again! I have redesigned my blog's look, and its contents will differ slightly from the past as well. I will be presenting newer, fresher recipes that are the best of the best that I cook. In the past, I would post most everything I made- but now you will only get the BEST recipes I create! I am also going to be adding some restaurant reviews, along with pictures and recreated recipes, to feature the fabulous Twin Cities dining that I frequently enjoy.

So- on to the good stuff! Today I made a big pot of Tomato Basil Bisque and served it with simple Prosciutto and Smoked Provolone Paninis (perfect for dipping!). The bisque was fantastic- creamy, comforting, flavorful and special. I knew it'd be good from the moment I began sauteing the onions in butter. There is something SO appealing about the smell and sound of onions in butter. Add garlic, and it's a real delight! This soup is easy to make, uses ingredients easily kept on hand, and will last for lunch all week!

Tomato Basil Bisque
Creamy, comforting and easy!
Serves 8

3 T. butter
3 medium white onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water
48 oz. canned, diced tomatoes
2 cups half and half
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 40 minutes; stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Blend in a blender or food processor, in batches if necessary. Stir in half and half. Sprinkle with fresh basil and blend again until completely pureed.

Recipe adapted from Mad About Food cookbook

Prosciutto and Smoked Provolone Paninis
These delicious sandwiches were made to dip in tomato soup!
Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices good rustic bread (I used rosemary boule)
2 slices prosciutto
2 slices smoked provolone cheese
olive oil

Heat panini press or skillet over medium heat. Assemble sandwich and drizzle outside bread slices with olive oil. Cook in panini press until cheese is melted and bread is lightly browned and toasty. If using a skillet cook one side at a time using another skillet to press down on sandwich. Enjoy with Tomato Basil Bisque.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Break time!

Dear Fellow Foodies,
I'm sure you've noticed that I have not been blogging much lately. I have decided to take a break from blogging until after my wedding on October 23. There is just so much craziness going on right now that I can't devote the time I'd like to this blog. But I promise that the blog will be up and running in full force come November! Please bear with me and stay hungry! :)

Lots of love,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

It's August and the tomatoes are amazing! It's the perfect time to grab a big bunch of them from the garden or farmers' market and make homemade tomato sauce. There is nothing quite like making this sauce from scratch. I love tomato sauce year round, but at this time of year you can get the most out of the flavor of the tomatoes and can create a sauce that is not only delicious, but is also easy to make and really healthy. Make a big batch and freeze the extras for a special treat when these beautiful days of summer are behind us!

Homemade Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti
A wholesome and flavorful sauce that brings any noodle to life!
Makes about 3 cups

12 ripe tomatoes
1 small red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil, chopped, optional
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Prepared Spaghetti, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse tomatoes, a couple at a time, for 30 seconds, then remove into a large bowl of ice water to cool for a minute or two. Remove from ice water and peel off the skins (they will slide off easily). Cut out the cores, then roughly chop up the tomatoes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic cloves. Saute while stirring for 2 minutes. Add in all of the tomatoes and their juices. Increase heat to medium high until mixture begins to boil, then reduce to medium low to simmer. Add dried herbs, salt and sugar and simmer for 45 minutes, until reduced by about 1/4, or to desired consistency.

Serve with hot spaghetti, fresh basil and grated cheese. Refrigerate leftovers for up to five days, or freeze.

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Friday, August 13, 2010

Champagne Sangria and Mexican Roll-Ups

I recently had the pleasure of hosting my best friend’s wedding shower, and it was a Mexican fiesta. The party was in the middle of the day, so a meal wasn’t necessary, just a few yummy appetizers and a fabulous drink! For the appetizers I made my “famous” bruschetta with ripe summer tomatoes and lots of basil, guacamole served with chips and carrots, and Mexican roll-ups. Mexican roll-ups are easy and delicious, and they’re perfect for parties because they can be made ahead. The shining star of the (hot!) afternoon was Champagne Sangria, a light, fruity and bubbly cocktail that was refreshing and delicious. This menu was perfect because the flavors were so unique, everything was relatively healthy, and it was bright and colorful!

Mexican Roll-Ups
A make-ahead appetizer that everyone loves!
Makes 10 roll-ups, serves 20-30

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 can chopped black olives
2 green onions, minced
2 T red onion, minced
¼ C red and green peppers, minced
1 T hot pepper sauce
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
¼ C salsa
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. chilli powder
10 flour tortillas

Combine all of the ingredients except the tortillas and stir well to blend. Spread some of the mixture on each of the tortillas and roll up tightly. Cover and refrigerate two hours or overnight. Slice into bite size pieces. Sprinkle with chilli powder.

Champagne Sangria
Fruity, bubbly and delicious!
Makes 6 drinks

1 (750-ml) bottle Prosecco or French Champagne, chilled
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups Mint Simple Syrup, recipe follows
1 lemon, zested and thinly sliced
1 lime, zested and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
5 fresh mint sprigs
Crushed ice

In a large pitcher, combine the Prosecco, orange juice, Mint Simple Syrup, lemon zest, and lime zest. Add the sliced strawberries, lemon slices, lime slices, and mint sprigs.

Fill glasses with crushed ice and pour the sangria over the top. Serve immediately.

Mint Simple Syrup:
2cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and mint over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes. Strain before using.

Recipe courtesy of Giada Delaurentis

Monday, August 9, 2010

Greek Pizza

Yes, it's another pizza recipe! As you know, I love making homemade pizza. Pizza has a bad reputation for being unhealthy, but that's mostly due to those delivery places. Making pizza at home is healthful, easy and fun! I created this delicious Greek pizza on a night when I was home alone, and I will admit, it was so good I ate the whole thing. Hey! I was hungry! At least it's better than eating a whole Pizza Hut pizza. :) Try this recipe and share with a friend (or not)!

Greek Pizza
Enjoy a healthy pizza with this recipe!

Pre-made thin pizza crust
Pizza sauce
Kalamata olives
Red onions, chopped
Green peppers, chopped
Garlic, minced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Zucchini, chopped (optional)
Cooked chicken breast, chopped (optional)
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Feta cheese, crumbled
Italian herb seasoning

Spread sauce around the crust then add your favorite toppings. Finish it off with some cheese and Italian herbs. Bake according to directions on crust. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Braised Chicken in Sun-dried Tomato Cream

While my go-to dish for any occasion is usually pasta, for many it's chicken. Chicken is popular because there are so many options of what to do with it. Just like pasta, almost anything tastes great with chicken! I made this delicious braised chicken in sundried tomato cream sauce that was one of the tastiest chicken dishes I've ever made. The braising technique is easy to do and really makes the chicken succulent and juicy, while the sundried tomato cream has a rich, creamy and almost sweet flavor that is brightened with plenty of white wine. And best of all, this dish is easy to prepare and has a "wow" factor that's always appreciated!

Braised Chicken in Sun-dried Tomato Cream
A flavorful and delicious way to prepare chicken that's always a hit!
Serves 2

2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 T oil from oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 T thinly sliced fresh basil

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-hight heat. Add chicken to skillet and saute until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add wine, cream and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to plates. Add basil to sauce in skillet. Increase heat and boil until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 2 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper; spoon over chicken and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spectacular Sides: Roasted New Potatoes with Spring Herb Pesto; Green Beans with Lemon, Walnuts and Parsley; and Watermelon Salad with Feta and Arugula

Is it just me, or is the best part of a meal often the side dishes? I enjoy a piece of meat as much as anyone, but I get really excited about the rest of the meal. I love when a meal rounds itself out with a number of dishes, some savory, some sweet and some just plain fun. It's especially welcoming when the sides make the most of the season. I recently cooked a dinner party and featured these three fantastic side dishes. The Rosted New Potatoes with Spring Herb Pesto is my favorite new potato preparation. The potatoes maintain their buttery texture but the outside gets crisp and flavorful. And the Spring Herb Pesto is super easy and fresh. And have you seen all of those green beans at the farmers' market lately? Try this prepration with bright lemon, crunchy walnuts and fresh parsley, with just the right amount of butter to add decadence. And last but not least, if you've never tried watermelon with feta, do it now! The sweet watermelon and salty feta compliment each other beautifully, and the arugula adds a spicy bite. It's divine! With these recipes you just may have the brilliant idea to forget the meat and just go for the sides!

Roasted New Potatoes with Spring Herb Pesto
Crisp and buttery potatoes come to life with a fresh and easy pesto.
Serves 6

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
3 T chopped fresh rosemary
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 pounds red-skinned new potatoes, halved lengthwise

Blend parsley, chives, rosemary, 1 T olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon peel and 1/2 tsp salt in food processor to coarse puree. (Pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes and remaining 2 T oil in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes cut side down, on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until potatoes are golden brown and tender, about 40 minutes. Using spatula, transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add pesto and toss to coat. Enjoy!

Green Beans with Walnuts, Lemon and Parsley
Fresh, buttery and bright flavors make a delicious side to any meal.
Serves 8

2 lbs. slender green beans, trimmed and halved
5 T butter
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 tsp grated lemon peel
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water and cool. Drain again and pat dry. (Beans can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.)

Melt butter in large deep skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts; saute until nuts are crisp and butter is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add beans and toss to heat through, about 5 minutes. Mix in lemon peel and toss 1 minute. Mix in parsley. Season beans to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Arugula
Sweet watermelon pairs perfectly with salty, crumbly feta cheese.
Serves 6

1/4 seedless watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 oz baby arugula
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Mix the olive oil, honey and lemon juice until combined. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine watermelon, feta and arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Potato and green bean recipes courtesy of Bon Appetit
Watermelon salad by Sarah Saubert

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grilled Corn Oaxaca Style

I can't take credit for this recipe, but WOW is it good! I spent the 4th of July in Arkansas with family, and my aunts prepared this amazing Mexican-style corn on the grill. It was the perfect side dish for the South of the Border feast, and I couldn't get enough! Corn on the grill is amazing in itself, but when it's spread with the creamy combo of mayo and sour cream (use low fat!), sprinkled with seasonings and drizzled with lime juice, it is irresistable! The smoky, creamy and bright flavors combine beautifully. Enjoy!

Grilled Corn Oaxaca Style
A creamy and flavorful coating for succulent grilled corn makes for the perfect side dish to any meal!
Serves 6

6 ears fresh corn with husks

2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
2 limes, cut into wedges
Vegetable cooking spray
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Prepare a hot fire by piling charcoal on one side of grill, leaving other side empty. (For gas grills, light only one side of grill.)
Remove heavy outer husks from corn; pull back inner husks. Remove and discard silks. Tie inner husks together with string.

Stir together mayonnaise and sour cream in a small bowl, and set aside. Place Parmesan cheese, chili powder, and lime wedges in small serving bowls, and set aside.

Coat each corn cob lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle corn evenly with salt and pepper. Position corn on food grate of grill so that tied husks lie on unlit side to prevent burning husks.

Grill corn, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350°to 400°) 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Place grilled corn cobs on a platter.

Spread corn evenly with mayonnaise mixture, and sprinkle evenly with cheese and chili powder. Squeeze lime wedges over corn.

Courtesy of My Recipes

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lasagna Noodle Bake with Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

After running around like crazy getting the most out of summer and leaving town for the 4th of July, I'm finally home and able to cook dinner! So what do I make? A heart and soul warming pasta dish of course! On a cloudy, rainy evening I love a flavorful baked pasta. I chose to use penne pasta (since it's what I had on hand) and made a lasagna-style baked pasta dish with Italian sausage, red sauce, cream sauce and lots of cheese. Combining all of these different ingredients and baking the dish in the oven created a succulent dish that was just bursting with flavor! If you have lasagna noodles, or any short style pasta, you can use that instead. Have fun!!

Lasagna Noodle Bake with Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce
A feel-good, delicious baked pasta bursting with flavor and creaminess!
Serves 4-6

3/4 lb. penne pasta
1.5 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup ground Italian sausage
1/4 cup pancetta, diced (optional)
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup mozarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
Fresh basil (optional)
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta two minutes shy of the recommended package directions. (It will cook the rest of the way while baking.) Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the Italian sausage and pancetta until almost cooked through. Add rosemary, oregano and red wine and stir until wine is combined into the meat. Remove meat from skillet and drain/cool on a plate covered with a paper towel. Return skillet to the heat. Add a little olive oil, then saute onions, green peppers and garlic for 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Combine veggies and meat in a large bowl and set aside.

To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Stir until combined, then add the cream. Bring up to a boil then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 5-8 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the pasta put a little spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a 9x9 dish. Add a layer of pasta. Top the pasta with some of the cream sauce. Then add the meat and veggie mixture and top with some more spaghetti sauce. Add a bunch of cheese. Repeat layers. End with the cheese on top and drizzle with any remaining cream.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Keep it covered with foil for the first 20 minutes, then remove the foil and allow it to cook until bubbly and beginning to brown on the edges. Serve with Parmesan cheese and shredded basil. That's AMORE!

The layering process creates tons of flavor! In the first step, spaghetti sauce is spread on the bottom, followed by pasta and topped with cream sauce.

Then comes the meat and veggie mixture topped with more spaghetti sauce. Add another set of layers and finish with cheese and extra cream!

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Calzone with Broccoli and Prosciutto

Calzones are so fun to make at home! Just like pizza, you can use any topping and ingredients you have on hand to make a delicious and filling dinner. Calzones from restaurants are not very healthy, but I'm never one to give up a yummy food for this reason. I just make them at home! This version is packed with broccoli, onions, garlic and Italian prosciutto. Have fun with the ingredients, just about anything tastes awesome when it's wrapped up in pizza dough!

Calzone with Broccoli and Prosciutto
Yummy ingredients wrapped up in an pizza dough package and baked!
Makes 2 big calzones

1 tube refrigerated pizza dough, such as Pillsbury
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 thin slices of prosciutto, ham or Canadian bacon, chopped
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pizza dough and cut in half to make two squares. Combine veggies, meat, pizza sauce, cheese and herbs in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place half of filling on the bottom half of each dough square. Fold top half of dough over toppings and press to seal all around.

Brush calzones with olive oil and poke a few holes in it with a fork. Place on a baking sheet in oven and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, cut in half and serve with extra pizza sauce.

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pappardelle with Vodka Sauce and Italian Sausage

I love pasta sauces that use ingredients I always seem to have on hand. A can of tomatoes, Italian sausage, cream, parmesan cheese and vodka- yes, I always have these items on hand! It's fun and easy to throw them together into a yummy sauce that satisfies the age old question- tomato or cream sauce? Well, vodka sauce is both! It's a hearty tomato sauce with a gentle kick from the vodka, tang from the Parmesan cheese and a mellow softness from the fresh cream. Adding good sausage really bulks up this sauce, and tossing it with a thick and silky noodle such as pappardelle really transforms it from a college kitchen to a chef's kitchen's dish. Next time you're in the mood for an Italian dish this one is definitely worth a try!

 Pappardelle with Vodka Sauce and Italian Sausage
A hearty and flavorful creamy tomato sauce that tastes great on all pasta!
Serves 3

1/2 pound Pappardelle pasta, or any other pasta
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1/4 cup vodka
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, rosemary and oregano (optional)
1/2 tsp sugar
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes, then push to side and add ground sausage to middle of pan. Cook for 4 minutes then mix with the onion. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes until the sausage is cooked through. Stir in the tomato paste until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low then add the crushed tomatoes, the sugar, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir in the oregano and rosemary (if using), Parmesan cheese and vodka. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. When it's almost finished cooking remove a 1/4 cup of pasta water from the pot and add it to the pasta sauce. This will thin it out a bit.

Stir the cream into the sauce. Add the fresh parsley and basil, if using.

Drain the pasta, then add it into the sauce skillet. Toss well to coat. Top with extra cheese and serve hot.

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shrimp Creole with Blue Cheese, Apple and Celery Slaw

If you're ever in the mood for a spicy and sweet New Orleans-style dinner, this is the perfect meal! The Shrimp Creole has all of the flavors of New Orleans- succulent shrimp, slow simmered veggies, caramelized cayenne pepper and soul-food comfort. The Blue Cheese, Apple and Celery Slaw is a perfect accompaniment to the spicy entree with it's creamy dressing, sweet apples, crunchy celery and salty blue cheese. I'm warning you now- you may eat the whole bowl! This meal is so satisfying because of all of the complimentary flavors, and it is also interesting and exciting. But the best (and most unbelieveable) part? It's healthy! The Shrimp Creole is bursting with good-for-you veggies and low-fat shrimp, and the Slaw is made healthy with light mayo and buttermilk (which is low in fat). The meal is also very easy to make- you only need one pot for the Shrimp Creole, and while it simmers you can make the slaw. You'll even have time to enjoy a big glass of white wine! Cheers to the cook!

Shrimp Creole
Flavorful New Orleans ingredients in a healthy one-pot meal!
Serves 4 to 6

2 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups seafood or shrimp stock
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in thick puree
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.5-2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 T. green onions, sliced
1 c. white or jasmine rice, prepared

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil. Cook garlic, onions, celery and green bell peppers. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cayenne and let caramelize. Add the stock, tomatoes, Worcestershire, hot sauce and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 35 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 4 more minutes, until they are bright pink and cooked through. Garnish with green onions. Serve in a large bowl with a scoop of rice on top.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Blue Cheese, Apple and Celery Slaw
Crunchy, creamy and salty- the perfect cool down side dish!
Serves 4-6

4 ounces blue cheese
1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp sugar
4 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, using a fork, combine the blue cheese, mayo and buttermilk until thick and lumpy. Combine the apples with the dressing, stir in celery, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gnocchi with Pesto, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes

Gnocchi is a delicious and rich "pasta" made of potatoes. If you've never tried it you must! It is silky and light, like little, pillowy clouds. And it is so fun to eat! It absorbs sauce and is mild in flavor and so can be paired with just about anything. Last night I made gnocchi with chicken, sundried tomatoes and pesto sauce. It was flavorful and rich without being heavy, and it was so easy to make! If you can't find gnocchi this flavor combo would work well with any thick pasta such as penne. Enjoy!!

Gnocchi with Pesto, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes
Soft, pillowy gnocchi with flavorful pesto and chewy sundried tomatoes.
Serves 3

1 package gnocchi
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 small or 1 large chicken breast
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat 1 T. of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and cut into bitesize pieces. Cook in skillet until almost cooked through. Remove and reserve.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Meanwhile, add a little more oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the sundried tomatoes and wine and cook until wine reduces by half. Add the chicken back in.

Drain the gnocchi and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add gnocchi and pesto to skillet. Stir to combine. If it seems dry add some of the pasta water until the consistency is right. Add a bunch of grated Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of salt and lots of black pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strawberry Bruschetta

Looking for a fun and delicious appetizer to add to your repertoire? Strawberry Bruschetta is simple, beautiful and yummy! I first enjoyed this unique appetizer at my friend's wedding shower and instantly fell in love. As you know, I love just about anything that can be served on toasted bread! Fresh sliced strawberries adorn a spread of cream cheese and cinnamon and are drizzled with honey for a sweet and savory treat. Get ready to eat the whole plate!

Strawberry Bruschetta
A sweet and fun appetizer treat. 
Serves 6-8

1 skinny loaf French bread ("take and bake" is best but a baguette would also work)
1/2 pound strawberries, rinsed and sliced
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (or if you can get your hands on marscarpone cheese it's fantastic in this!)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice the loaf thinly and arrange pieces on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes until crunchy on top but not completely hardened. Remove and let cool. Once cooled spread each piece with cream cheese then sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with two strawberry slices and drizzle with honey.

This snack is addictive. You've been warned!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shrimp Tacos with Pico de Gallo

There is something about a taco that feels like summer. Perhaps it's the crisp veggies, the fresh flavors, or the fact that I can eat them with my hands. Whatever the reason, I love tacos! Instead of my usual chicken or beef version I recently mixed it up with shrimp coated in panko breadcrumbs and pan fried. (If you haven't used panko breadcrumbs yet get on it. These Japanese crumbs are perfect for coating any kind of meat and giving it a crunchy, deep-fried texture without the added fat!) The crunchy shrimp perfectly complimented the soft tortillas and crisp, fresh veggies. With a sprinkling of cheese, a smattering of sour cream and guacamole, and a big scoop of pico de gallo, I'd call it one fantastic taco!

Shrimp Tacos
Fresh and flavorful! 
Serves 2

1/2 pound raw shrimp
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 T. taco seasoning
3 T. canola or vegetable oil
1 T. Mexican hot sauce, optional

Shredded lettuce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour Cream
Pico de Gallo, recipe follows
Guacamole (recipe http://sarahslifeinfood.blogspot.com/2010/02/mexican-fiesta-beef-enchiladas.html)

6 soft-taco size flour tortillas

Dry off the raw shrimp with paper towels. Mix the egg, milk and hot sauce together in a bowl, and add the shrimp and stir until coated. Mix the panko breadcrumbs and taco seasoning in a large food storage bag. Add the shrimp and shake until coated in breadcrumbs. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and crispy, then flip and cook other side for 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble the taco spread a little sour cream and guacamole on the tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce. Add 4-5 shrimp and then top with pico de gallo and shredded cheese. Enjoy!

Pico de Gallo
A fresh and delicious addition to any meal! 
Makes about 1 cup

2 fresh tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. minced onion
1 T. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt

Stir ingredients together in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and lime juice. Serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Family Supper- Spaghetti and Meatballs and Bonus! Meatball Hoagies

My parents and sister came to visit and after a five hour drive I thought they'd enjoy a home cooked meal. After all, how many of these meals has my mom made for me?! I wanted to make something homey, comforting, delicious and Italian. Enter spaghetti and meatballs! This is one of my favorite meals to make. Ever. I love to form the meatballs into little balls of perfection, oozing with sauteed veggies, herbs and fresh cheese. And making homemade pasta sauce is always a joy, as it is so very easy and fills the entire house with the smells of Italy. I served the entree with a light Strawberry and Greens Salad in a Balsamic Vinegarette, Marinated Asparagus and Garlic Bread. Served with a fantastic bottle of our favorite Merlot, this meal sure did satisfy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
The ultimate comfort food. 
Serves 6 plus extra meatballs

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups heated homemade pasta sauce, recipe follows, or good quality jarred tomato sauce
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh basil
1 pound spaghetti

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add that to the bowl along with the cooled onion mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Roll into similar sized meatballs. (I got 16 meatballs about the size of pool balls.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 3 T. of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Put them into a baking dish and spoon about half of the tomato sauce over. Lay the fresh mozzarella over top and drizzle with olive oil. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and put it onto a large serving platter. Pour on the rest of the sauce and mix well. Spoon the meatballs on top of the spaghetti and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately along with extra cheese.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

Bonus! Meatball Hoagies
Got extra meatballs? Here is the perfect leftover recipe!

2 meatballs, halved
1/4 cup tomato sauce, plus more for dipping
Provolone cheese
Sauteed onions and peppers, optional
Basil leaves, optional
1 hoagie bun

Arrange halved meatballs cut side down on hoagie. Top with sauce, cheese and veggies. Bake at 375 degrees for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Serve with extra dipping sauce.

Wine of the Night
Cosentino Winery
2005 Reserve Merlot
Napa Valley

We don't drink a lot of Merlot but wanted to give this vintage from our favorite Napa Valley winery a shot. It was delicious! Spicy on the nose with aromas of pepper and pomegranate with an evenly developed palate of ripe black cherry, anise, and cedar. Ripe tannins set the profile for the finish of dried cranberry, citrus zest, and sage.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pizza Party! Prosciutto and Roasted Red Peppers with Gorgonzola and Spicy Sausage with Caramelized Balsamic Onions and Jalapenos

It's Friday night and we have no dinner plans- a perfect chance for a pizza party Kevin and Sarah style! Kevin's pizza of choice included spicy Italian sausage, caramelized balsamic onions and jalapenos. Sarah opted for a prosciutto, roasted red pepper and Gorgonzola cheese variety. Well, we both LOVED our pizzas! Kevin's had a fiery kick with the combination of spicy Italian sausage and jalapenos, but it also had a softer, sweeter side with the caramelized balsamic onions. Sarah's pizza was classic salty and sweet with the Gorgonzola cheese and prosciutto, complemented with mellow roasted red peppers. Homemade pizza is so fun and easy to make, just buy a couple crusts and load them up with your favorite toppings!

Pizza with Prosciutto, Roasted Red Peppers and Gorgonzola
Salty, sweet and delicious!
Serves 2-4

1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 slices prosciutto, cut into pieces
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/8 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven according to pizza crust directions. Spread sauce on crust and sprinkle with minced garlic and mozzarella cheese. Top mozzarella with prosciutto, roasted red peppers and red onion. Sprinkle crumbled Gorgonzola over top and drizzle with some EVOO. Bake 20-25 minutes until bubbling. Enjoy!

Pizza with Spicy Sausage, Carmelized Balsamic Onions and Jalapenos
Fiery hot and tasty!
Serves 2-4

1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 links spicy Italian sausage
1 Jalapeno, sliced
1 small onion, halved and sliced
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt

Preheat oven according to pizza crust directions. Spread sauce on crust and sprinkle with minced garlic and mozzarella cheese.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and use a wooden spoon to separate into crumbles. Cook until sausage is almost cooked through then drain on paper towels. Add sliced onions to sausage drippings (add olive oil if pan is dry) and sprinkle in some kosher salt. Cook for 15 minutes until onions are softened and reduced in half. Add balsamic vinegar and stir for 2-3 minutes until coated. Set aside.

Add sausage and onion mixture to pizza. Cover with cheddar cheese, then add sliced jalapenos on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. Mmmm that's spicy!

Wine of the Night
Punto Final Malbec, 2008

This is a delicious malbec with 90 points from Wine Spectator for less than $15! It has a rich bouquet, lively mouth-feel, lingering flavors of red and black berries with undertones of black pepper and vanilla, and a velvety texture throughout. And it tastes great with pizza!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beach Party! Pina Colada Shrimp, Mango Salsa, Asparagus with Crab Salad and Veggie Pasta Salad

Last weekend wasn't beach weather, but that didn't stop Kevin and me from hosting a beach themed dinner party with our friends Zach and Natalie. Kevin stirred up Hawaiian Mai Tai's while I made mango salsa with pita chips and pina colada shrimp with jasmine rice. The mango salsa was SO easy and delicious. And it's super healthy! The pita chips are flavorful and special, and really make the salsa's flavors pop. The pina colada shrimp was insanely delicious. I loved the combination of shrimp with pineapple, and the coconut-rum sauce screamed "take me to the beach!" as it soaked into a flavorful bed of jasmine rice. Zach and Natalie brought the salad and side dish- a lovely crab salad with capers and lemon atop asparagus and a veggie pasta salad with zucchini and sundried tomatoes. After a night of catchphrase and mai tai's we knew this was a dinner party to remember!

Pina Colada Shrimp with Jasmine Rice
A tropical treat made for the beach! 
Serves 4

1 pound raw shrimp
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup Captain Morgan rum
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 can diced pineapple in juice, drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved
1 T. cilantro, chopped
1 T. parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cup Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

In a large skillet preheat 1 T. olive oil. Cook onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add rum and cook 1 minute while stirring, then add coconut milk, chicken stock, pineapple and pineapple juice. Bring mixture up to a bubble and simmer until reduced in half and slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T. olive oil in another sauce pan. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Saute 2-3 minutes until pink. Add shrimp to thickened coconut-rum sauce and stir to combine. Stir in parsley and cilantro and serve on top of Jasmine rice with a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

Mango Salsa with Pita Chips
Fruity salsa and flavorful pita bring out the flavor of the Islands!
Serves 4-6

2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumber
1 T. finely chopped jalapeno
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 T. lime juice
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper

Combine the mango, cucumber, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice and cilantro leaves and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

3 pitas
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oil with seasonings and brush on pitas. Bake 12-15 minutes. Cut into chips and serve with salsa.

Asparagus with Crab Salad
Fresh stalks topped with creamy crab salad. 
Serves 4-6

2 small bunches of fresh green asparagus
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup minced onions
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup pressed capers
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartledge

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Trim off about 2 inches from the bottom of the asparagus. When the water comes to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, (depending on the size of the asparagus) Remove the asparagus and place in a large mixing bowl of ice water. Leave the asparagus in the water for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and pat dry. In a mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, onions, shallots, garlic, capers, parsley, chervil and tarragon. Mix well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add the crab meat and mix well. Reseason if needed. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and spoon the crab mixture over the center of the asparagus. 

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Zucchini
Fresh veggies in a flavorful dressing with pasta. 
Serves 8

1 lb. bowtie pasta
Fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick discs
1 zucchini squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick discs
1 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh packed parsley leaves

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the side of a knife blade, and quartered
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente and drain well. Toss with ground black pepper and olive oil.
For the dressing, add the vinegar to a blender and replace the lid. Turn on the blender add, 1 at a time through the feed opening, garlic, mustard, oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper. Leaving the blender running, add the olive oil in a slow thin stream.

Toss together the pasta, yellow squash, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and parsley with enough of the dressing to coat. Serve any additional dressing on the side. 

Recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine