Fall is upon us and with the changing of the leaves comes a changing of the palette. Our tastebuds yearn for flavors that are warmer and more full-bodied. Spicier and more herbal. And no, I'm not talking about Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I'm talking about Fernet Branca. The Italian mother of all digestifs.Read More
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Today, I was featured on the Thanksgiving Day Special on WCIU, You and Me This Morning. It was a blast because I found a way to sneak some booze into all of my food... and of course pair each dish with a complimenting cocktail. I mean, a little booze helps to make it through the crazy holiday season, am I right?! I covered the 3 major food groups, Vodka, Bourbon, and Cachaca. Here's what I made!Read More
Ahh it's that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting crisp, and the food is getting quite comforting. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and experiencing a unique spin on typical Turkey Day fare can really elevate the holiday. I was so excited to be invited by Morton Salt to the "Next Door Chef" Pop-up dinner to indulge in Thanksgiving favorites...with a twist.Read More
Staying connected to your girlfriends does not only make for a great time, but it makes for a healthy and sane mind. It's so important to nurture your female relationships as those ladies will be there for your through thick and thin, No matter what is going on in my life, I know that my close friends are by my side no matter what. And having a fun GNO on the reg is necessary to let loose and nurture that bond.Read More
Ahh the challenges of the 21st century. So many conveniences, everything can be delivered right to your door. We literally don't even have to go to the drugstore anymore if we don't want to (and why would we?!). But with all of these modern technological advances comes a problem. Not there are SO many competing companies who are just dying to help you stay glued to your couch.... which do we choose?? Why are our lives so hard?!?!Read More
Ahhh cooking. Depending on who you are, it can be a blessing or a curse. What if, no matter what your level of culinary expertise, you could enjoy and master cooking from home?! I have the answer, folks. It's Home Chef. I absolutely LOVE to cook. Whether it's for my friends, family, or date night... there's no greater satisfaction that creating a meal that your loved ones will love. Even though my culinary ability is a bit above average, there are still some negatives to cooking at home. The biggest being waste. When I go grocery shopping for the week, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I buy SO much, most of it never used, or it goes bad before I have a chance to use it. Then I have to deal with the shame of throwing out hundreds of dollars of perfectly good produce. So sad (tear).Read More
Lobsters have long been considered a delicacy. The ultimate and proverbial "last and final meal" most people would choose before meeting our maker. Since lobsters have seemed so lofty and unattainable (especially in daily life) the general public knows very little about this fascinating arthropod. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Portland, ME last week to delve into all that encompasses the Maine Lobster. This trip could NOT have been more perfect for me, as I have NEVER had the privilege of visiting the beautiful state of Maine, and I have also become more appreciative of lobsters recently as I try to no longer eat red meat (or mammals).
In Maine, lobsters are a way of life. They are a massive part of the economy and also a way of employing thousands of lobstermen and sustaining their families. Seeing this dynamic and the importance of lobsters to this region was truly special. Thanks to the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, I was able to get an inside look on the entire process; from trap to table. Most importantly, we were to learn all about Maine "New-Shell" Lobsters. These are lobsters that have recently shed their hard outer shell toward the end of the summer. The shell is much softer, you're even able to poke a hole in a claw with your finger...unheard of for old or hard-shell lobsters. These "new-shell" lobsters are supposed to be the sweetest and tastiest lobster in the world, and I'm here to taste them myself!
The first stop on our lobster tour was the Cape Seafood processing plant. The vast majority of the lobster that is processed at Cape is shipped out to all the Luke's Lobster restaurants around the country. We really got up close and personal with all the lobbies here...all while wearing the finest in rubber boots, hairnets, gloves, and cloaks in order to keep everything as sterile as possible. We saw how the lobster is cleaned, cooked, cooled... and ultimately, picked. They had a room full of about 50 pickers who were as quick as lightening and can pick all the meat from a knuckle and claw in about 2 seconds flat. It was incredible to watch, not to mention the respect you garner for the pickers' talent, dexterity, and diligence.
Next, we got to actually TASTE the incredible "new-shell" Maine Lobsters at one of the most famous lobster roll restaurants in the country. The Clam Shack, in Kennebunk, ME, has won award after award and continuously has been voted "best lobster roll". They put in on a round brioche bun instead of the typical hot dog bun or split roll. They also use a mixture of mayo AND butter to give you the best of both worlds. It was a simple, sweet, and outstanding sandwich.
Later, we all were aboard The Lucky Catch, a real lobster boat. The weather was perfect, even out at sea. The skies were pure blue as was the water, and the shoreline of Portland was breathtaking. Few things are more beautiful than the historic shores and harbors of New England, and to see it from an actual lobster boat was surreal. Our lobsterman captain was going to show us the ropes (pun somewhat intended) of how to set the traps and haul in the goods.
First off, we put bait in bags. Several pounds of large herring went into each orange mesh bag. Those would then be placed inside the large and genius-ly configured lobster traps. Once we caught some lobsters we got to measure them and band them.
Measuring them is of utmost importance. The Maine Lobster rules and regulations are incredibly strict in order to conserve and sustain the lobster population. A legal lobster in the State of Maine has a carapace or body shell length that measures between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches. If they are too big or too small they MUST be immediately thrown back. Small lobsters haven't yet been given the chance to breed and larger lobsters have shown that they are good breeders and are to be kept in the population. Check out this video I shot to see how it works!
We also had the rare chance to see a "berried" female, or a female who is covered in eggs. These females must be immediately thrown back and notched on their tail to tell future lobsterman that they are capable of breeding. It was one of the coolest things I have witnessed in nature.
When I heard we were going to the Maine State Aquarium, I wasn't all that excited at first, as I thought it would be "just for kids". However, when I saw all of the insanely rare specimen of lobster they had in their possession... I was blown away. Check these out!! The 1st is a 1 in 100,000,000 rare albino lobster, and the second is a 1 in 2,000,000 cobalt blue lobster. It was one of the most stunning sights my eyes have ever laid upon.
We closed out this lobster immersion trip by, well, eating more lobster! Attending the Claw Down event in Boothbay Harbor was a fantastic way to bring this experience full circle. 20 local chefs were competing for the "best bite" of lobster. It was a blast and was so cool to see all of the different and unique ways in which new-shell lobster could be prepared. There was pasta, sandwiches, stews, sautés, etc. Here is a lobster salad served with crispy chicken skin on a soft roll. Delicious!
I've always been a huge fan of lobster. However, now that I know everything that goes into the fishing, sustainability, dealing, processing, preparation, and of course...eating...I have an entirely new respect for this delicious animal. I've also now become a fan of the succulent and sweet "new-shell" Maine lobster. Make sure that when you order your next lobster, if it's in the late summer, early fall, ask if it's new-shell. If it is...watch your tastebuds explode and then please tell me all about it!!
To learn more, visit: http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com
Everyone loves comfort foods. Sometimes you want all the decadence of your favorite foods but the guilt that comes with it can be crippling. What if you could have it all. Your favorite satisfying foods, but with a healthy twist?! Here you go!
Mac and Cheese is a comfort food staple. But it's usually loaded with so much heavy cream and cheese that it could take a month just to work off two bites! While I was perusing Instagram recently I came across a pic of my friend Lauren Nolan, aka The Lakeshore Lady's, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Arugula. The heavy cream is replaced with roasted cauliflower puree and it's outstanding. You do NOT feel like you're eating a healthy substitution. Get the whole recipe here!
Who doesn't like to end a satiating dinner with something sweet?! But as we know, most of our favorite dessert indulgences are "a moment on the lips...a lifetime on the hips" But what if you could actually be eating your favorite desserts but also have it be healthy?! Mind blown, right?!
Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts * are the best of both worlds. It comes in a dual sided container (we're all familiar with these). One side has the little crumbles and crunchies we love, and the side has the fruity goodness or creamy part of the dessert incorporated into it. I swear it's as if you are eating the actual desserts, and the fact that you get all the flavor for under 220 calories is outstanding.
Now I am VERY picky about yogurts. I used to be naive and think that any yogurt was automatically healthy for you. Then I realized that most of the yogurts we eat have artificial flavorings or sweeteners (which are incredibly harmful). Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts have NO artificial flavorings, sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup. They’re a good source of calcium and protein and best yet, they’re made from cows not treated with hormones. So now it’s ok to indulge in your favorite desserts and say adios to all the guilt that comes with it. Also, you've gotta check out this hilarious video that The Girls With Glasses made to show you how Muller Dessert Inspired yogurts are a delicious lifesaver. Click HERE to watch. Here’s to our sweet-tooths! #yogurtwithbenefits
*The second half of this blog (yogurt portion) was sponsored by Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts.
Want a new way to down your morning cup o' Joe?! Or better yet, want to summer-ize your traditional coffee and add some great health benefits?! This recipe uses my obsession, Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, it's like rocket fuel and a little goes a LONG way. I made this in my Vitamix, as that is the ideal hardware for this recipe, but a regular blender should suffice. Enjoy, caffeine lovers!!
Banana-Nut Butter Coffee Smoothie
1/2 cup Coconut milk
1/4 Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
1 frozen banana
1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter
Directions: Pour coconut milk in Vitamix... enough to cover blades. Add coffee, frozen banana, and nut butter. Blend on high for 30 secs or until smooth. Add a bit more coconut milk if you'd like it to be a bit more liquid-y. Enjoy the buzz!!
I love taking dishes from ethnic cuisines and putting my Italian spin on it. It's particularly easy to do with Mexican food since many of the ingredients have an Italian counterpart, ex. cilantro and parsley, chili peppers and giardinera, roasted poblanos and roasted red peppers. Here is my take on a light and summery Italian chili that happens to be quite healthy, I made it for my fellow food blogger friend Everything Erica the other night, and she went crazy for it.. hope you enjoy it too!!
3 links of Jennie-O spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 half onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
1 large zucchini chopped into small cubes
Basil- 5 larges leaves, chopped for garnish
2 Cans Cannelini beans
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
1/4 tsp Crushed red chili flakes
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or oregano)
Ricotta cheese (can use part skim)
1/3 cup white wine
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté the zucchini (that has been salted for a few min) for 1 min then add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Season with S&P. Sauté for 1 more min and then crumble the sausage (removed from casing) into the pot. Stir until sausage is browned. Turn heat to medium. Add wine and cook down for 2 min. Add the 2 cans of beans (drain out half of liquid), and can of tomatoes in sauce (you can crush or chop tomatoes if they're whole). Add garlic powder, chili flakes, Italian seasoning and season again with S&P. If Chili is too thick, you can add 1/4-1/3 cup water or stock if desired. Cover and cook on low-simmer for 30 min.
When ready to serve, stir in 1/4 cup of ricotta into chili and half of basil. Serve into 4 bowls and garnish with remaining basil, and a dollop of ricotta in each bowl.
Healthy Italian Quinoa SaladRead More
As seen on my last two appearances on VH1 Big Morning Buzz Live with Nick Lachey, Here are the recipes for my last 4 yummy cocktails! See full link here.
1 oz. Monkey 47 Gin
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
3 oz. Veuve Cliquot Rosé (or any Rosè Champagne or sparkling wine)
Shake first 3 ingredients with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Fill remainder of glass with champagne.
Garnish with Edible Flowers
1 oz. St. Germain
1 oz Vodka (optional)
1 oz. Lavender Syrup
3 oz. Zipang Sparkling Sake
Shake first 3 ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Fill remainder with Zipang Sparkling Sake.
Garnish with fresh mint
1 oz. creme de menthe
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup milk
Blend all together in blender. Pour into tall collins glass.
Garnish with whipped cream & Maraschino cherry.
IRISH CAR BOMB FLOAT
12 oz. Guinness
1-2 scoops Tipsy Scoop Irish Car Bomb flavored
1 oz Jagermeister Spice
Put 1-2 scoops of Tipsy Scoop in your glass. Top with Guinness with a splash of Jager to finish it off.
Happy Spring, and Slainte!!
Thanks to all who came out to the first Eat Travel Rock Unplugged event at Chop Shop last night! Robbie Gold performed and we had some great wines by Fabio Viviani Wines. It was a blast and I had so much fun teaching my simple and tasty Italian Valentine's Day recipes. In case you missed it... the recipes are below!
Appetizer: Figs and Prociutto di Parma
Take approx 12 fresh figs (if you can't find fresh you can rehydrate dried figs by boiling water, adding figs and turning stove off, and letting them soak for 2 hours). Wrap the figs in a long thin slice of the prociutto (should be di Parma.. it's the legit imported from Italy prociutto...the best) seal with a toothpick and add a small dollop of raspberry preserves on top.
Salad: Crazy Caprese- My version of Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese)
1 container ciliegine -fresh mozzarella (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes red (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes yellow (halved)
1 red pepper diced
1/3 cup kalamata olives (halved)
1/4 cup good quality IMPORTED FROM ITALY/SICILY extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp good quality imported balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar on top, add spices and fresh herbs. Mix together well and serve. Can be chilled in fridge for up to a couple hours before serving.
Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
2 large or 4 small Zucchini
1/2 large onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes (imported italian if possible)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
5 oz. goat cheese
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Fresh Basil (chopped)
1/2 lb Pasta (Rigatoni or other wide tube pasta)
Peel and Chop Zucchini (I live a bit of skin on for color and nutrients) into cubes. Put in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp salt and toss. Set aside for 10 min until moisture starts to come out. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet and add onion. Cook 2 min and add zucchini. While zucchini cooks (3-4 min), boil water in a medium/large pot and cook pasta according to instructions. Add 50% of can of crushed tomatoes to zucchini, add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 min over medium heat. Add goat cheese and basil and stir until creamy and smooth. Strain pasta into skillet and mix to combine. Pour into serving platter/bowl and garnish with a lot of fresh shredded italian cheese and a bit more basil.
Kelly's Version of Pork Chops Pizzaiola
2 thin cut Bone-in Pork Chops (please use local/sustainable i.e. Slagel Farm)
1/2 onion sliced into long skinny pieces
1 large clove fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Remaining 50% of can of crushed tomatoes from pasta recipe
1/4 cup chopped hot red cherry peppers in brine (Mazetta's)
1/4 cup chopped mild red cherry peppers
salt and pepper to taste
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to heavy cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Once hot add pork chops and sear... appox 2 min on each side. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil and onions, then add garlic, scrape up all the little brown bits from the bottom while sautéing the onion. Add the white wine to help deglaze the pan. Salt and pepper. Cook for 2 min. Add the crushed tomatoes, cherry peppers, and more salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork chops back into the sauce. Finish cooking for approx 2 more minutes or until pork chops are cooked through (no pink) but NOT dry or over cooked. Transfer all to a serving platter and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a LOT of grated cheese.
My Italian Zucchini Soup or "Zuppa" is one of my favorite dishes to make. It is SO easy, versatile, healthy, and comforting.... oh and it's vegetarian and gluten free. Whenever you can make "healthy" comfort food, that is delicious AND warming...it's a win-win. My Nanna has been making a variation of this for me since I was born, so it's a Sicilian staple in my family. I've adapted it over the years but I've stayed true to it's honest simplicity. The great thing is that you can make it your own... there are SO many ways to add to the recipe (see tips below) I hope you enjoy it!!
5-6 Medium Size Zucchini
1/2 Diced onion
3 tblsp Olive Oil (Good Italian or Sicilian Olive Oil)
1 Can Cannelini Beans
GRATED (not shredded) Incanestrato Cheese (can use Parmiggiano or Romano)
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Red Chili Flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper
2 cups water (can substitute chicken or veggie stock)
Cut ends off of and roughly peel the zucchini (leave a bit of skin on for color and vitamins). Slice lengthwise and again, and chop into cubes (about 1/2 inch each). Put in a bowl, season with a 1/2 tsp of salt and set aside until moisture comes out. (5-10 min).
Next, over medium-high heat put olive oil in a very large skillet or large sautee pan .... Sautee diced onion until soft (approx 2 min) Add the zucchini and cook until softened, approx 5-7 min, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.
Add approx 2 cups of water- or enough to JUST cover veggies. (can substitute with chicken or veggie stock but not necessary... even water will be VERY flavorful) Add chili flakes, garlic powder and turn heat to Medium and cook for approx 4 minutes. While you're cooking, continuously and gently mash the zucchini to release some of the seeds and flesh in order to thicken soup.
Add Cannelini beans and cook for 5 more minutes. Gently mash the beans as well to thicken soup. Season again with salt and pepper.
Once soup has reached desired consistency. Add the cheese (incanstrato is a strong grated Sicilian cheese, it can be very hard to find, so use Parmiggiano if necessary) and chopped basil (about 5 big leaves). Season with more salt and pepper if necessary (more garlic if you like too).
Pour into serving bowls and garnish with more chopped basil and cheese. This is also AMAZING for leftovers. Buon' Appetito!! Makes 4 servings.
Tips: You can also add pasta (pastina), eggplant, fresh garlic, chopped chicken, tomatoes, anything you can think of!! So versatile!
My Chicken Marsala has become the go-to recipe everyone in my family always wants me to make (I made it for my beloved fam on Christmas). My mom insists it's now "famous". I'm not quite so sure about that, but I will say it's damn good, and probably one of the best dishes I cook at home. Now a warning: I've never put the recipe on paper, I've always done it all in my head, so this was a bit of a challenge. The good part is, you can add and subtract a bit here and there and season to your liking and it will still be DEELISH!! Please enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!! Buon Appetito!!
2 lbs of thin cut ORGANIC chicken breasts (the butcher can cut them)(approx 6-8 pieces)
1 large package of organic baby bella mushrooms (can substitute white or button)
1 half large organic yellow onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
1/3 cup organic low-sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp Wondra flour (a bit more or less to thicken)
Fresh parsley or basil for garnish
Grated parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. First we need to make the dredging station. Fill a medium size tray or tupperware with the all purpose flour, garlic powder, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. After thoroughly washing chicken and patting dry, lightly dredge chicken in flour mixture and set aside on another tray.
Heat half olive oil in large non-stick skillet. Sautee chicken approx 3 min on each side until golden brown. Chicken should NOT be cooked through yet. Place chicken in a baking dish that's large enough to fit all the chicken in one layer along the bottom (or close to it).
Rinse out or wipe skillet and heat remainder olive oil in pan on medium high heat. Add onions first, then garlic, sautee for 2 min then add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. After they soften, add the Marsala wine. Let the wine cook down with the veggies for approx. 3-4 min until very fragrant and slightly (but not completely absorbed) then add the chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 3 more min. Start adding the Wondra flour a hefty sprinkle at a time. There isn't a perfect science to this and I always eyeball it. I will add a bit and let thicken until I reach my desired consistency. I'm not a fan of clear and runny Marsala sauce, I like mine creamier. So that's the reason for the milk and flour. Once you get it how you like it (salt and pepper again to taste), let it simmer for a few more min.
Pour the mixture over the chicken and make sure to spread it evenly and coat everything. Bake covered in tinfoil for approx 30 min. Check chicken to make sure it's cooked through as bake time can vary based on chicken thickness. Do NOT overcook as chicken can become dry.
Sprinkle with fresh basil or parsley and grated parmiggiano (or incanestrato cheese if you can find it) Makes 6-8 servings. (Great as leftovers too!)