As a kid who grew up in the 90’s, I was lucky enough that we lived with my grandparents until I was eight. I was too young to know that my grandmother was a neurotic old school Italian and only that she filled me up on toast covered in cinnamon and sugar, Ocean Spray cranberry juice, pastine and egg, and pizza. Really, she spoiled me. Now that I’m an adult, I get in trouble for wearing v-neck t-shirts and no food.
I don’t often make pizza at home because there are so many great pizza places in RI and around my hometown. In an effort to eat a little healthier, though, and still allow myself the vice of eating pizza, I’ve been trying to make more homemade and if I’m going to make it, I just have to make it like hers. She always cut the pepperoni herself in thick slices and got the sauce all the way to the edges, to give a little sweetness to the crust. I love this pizza. It’s my favorite pizza. If you’re a pizza lover and a home cook, give it a try one of these Sunday afternoons or on a cold, dark snowy night.
½ c. tomato sauce
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
6 oz. shredded Italian blend cheese
1 stick of pepperoni
1 6 oz. pizza dough (No, I don’t make my own pizza dough. Sorry.)
½ c. tomato sauce
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
6 oz. shredded Italian blend cheese
1 stick of pepperoni
1 9 oz. pizza dough (No, I don’t make my own pizza dough. Sorry.)
Preheat oven to 400. Let the dough rise on the counter and come to room temperature. (This is very important as it will not stretch for you when it’s cold.)
Very lightly grease a sheet pan with canola oil (olive oil is too strong for this). This will help you to stretch the dough into the pan and prevent sticking. I use the largest pan I got in the set shown here.
Bake stretched dough on its own for 5-8 minutes, or until it begins to harden. Air bubbles may develop, poke them with a fork and press the air out of them.
Next, spread the sauce around the dough. Using a rubber brush, cover the pizza with sauce all the way to the edges. Make sure you get a good amount on the edges to give the crust a lot of flavor.
Put the pizza back in for 2-3 minutes and let the sauce bake a little bit onto the dough.
Next, begin layering. First a layer of shredded mozzarella, then a layer of pepperoni and then a layer of the Italian blend cheese. Repeat until the surface of the pizza is covered.
Bake until cheese is melty and begins to brown slightly 8-10 minutes. If you like your pizza more on the well done side, feel free to leave it in until baked to your desired doneness.
I am here today to tell you about an unsung hero. A vegetable that has gotten a bad rep my entire life that deserves to be treated better. One that is tastier than most when properly prepared. I’m talking about the brussels sprout.
When I see these beauties at the market on Saturday or Sunday morning, I’m going in for the kill. And if they’re on sale, I’m buying extra. Mike and I tend to fight over the leftovers and sometimes take turns bringing them for lunch the following day if there’s only a few. He even brags about this recipe to complete strangers.
I’m not here today to brag about this recipe–even though it’s delectable. I am here to help you love brussels sprouts and to help you easily welcome a new delicious side into your routine meals if you aren’t already familiar with them. If you are familiar and you make them some other way and they’re delicious, I believe you. But I will still insist that you try them this way.
And so without further ado, this post is short and sweet, and so is the recipe.
1 bunch brussel sprouts (trimmed, halved if they are larger than cherries or grapes)
5 garlic cloves, smashed with the skin still on
2 heaping tbsp. bacon fat
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Methodology & Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Whisk together garlic, olive oil, honey, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Pour brussels sprouts into a large baking dish and pour mixture over the top. Toss to coat. Top with a tablespoon of bacon fat on each side of dish. (If you have a cast iron pan, start these on the stove over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes and then move to the oven.)
Bake, tossing occasionally, for 40-45 minutes or until brussel sprouts are tender and some of the leaves have caramelized with the honey and started to char. If some of the leaves or edges are a little dark brown or black, this is a good thing! You have not burned the dish. You have nailed it.
Serve with anything from pork to baked cod as a side dish. (Look for recipes for both entree options in the near future.)
If you had told me two years ago that I’d be going to the gym or exercising (mostly alone, mind you) 2-3 days a week and preferring zucchini to pasta–I’d’ve told you that you were insane. Or asked where your time machine was for proof.
When my mom cut gluten out of her diet, I started trying more ways to enjoy things that are usually full of carbs and sugar but with better nutritional benefit. So far, I’ve made pizza boats out of zucchini (YUM!), started eating celeriac (also YUM!), discovered delicious new snacks (kale chips!), become obsessed with brussel sprouts and have made zucchini “noodles” or “zoodles” almost once a week for the last few months. Since this was already routine, when I moved out this summer, I took the healthy, low-carb diet along with me.
And this Italian girl still loves her pasta with a side of garlic bread–just much, much less often. Spiralizing zucchini has helped me to take a big step away from a diet high in processed foods. Pasta was always a go-to quick meal for me, and it still kind of is, but I usually sub out zucchini. Plus, Mike isn’t totally opposed and loves the bolognese just as much as I do.
FOR ALL RECIPES:
3 “good-sized” zucchinis, spiralized Hint: All you’ll need to do is trim the ends off with a sharp knife. Just give the zucchini a good rinse, no need to peel.
AGLIO E OLIO
4 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips (optional)
Salt & pepper
Over medium heat, sautee the garlic in the oil until it begins to bubble, be sure it doesn’t brown. Let the garlic soften and the flavor meld into the oil. This should only take about 5 minutes.
Add the zoodles and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the noodles marry into the sauce, tossing them to ensure a good coating.
Cook about 4-6 minutes or until only slightly tender. If you cook the zucchini for too long, it will become mushy and the sauce will be soupy.
Finish the last minute or so with the freshly cut basil leaves. I usually cut them into strips or tear up by hand.
Serve with grated cheese and/or red pepper flakes for toppings. Enjoy!
2 hot Italian pork sausages, casings removed
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup ricotta cheese
Over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up into smaller bits. (There is always the option to make this with ground pork rather than sausage.)
Once mostly cooked through, season the meat lightly with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce and heavy whipping cream.
Let simmer 2-3 minutes or until sauce begins to bubble slightly.
Once the sauce bubbles and thickens a bit, lower the heat to medium and add the zoodles and ricotta.
Stir to combine, then let simmer for 3-4 minutes. The ricotta should completely “melt” into the sauce and help to thicken it a bit more.
Remove from the heat and serve!
1 ½ c. tomato sauce
For a how-to on the Food Snob’s Tomato Sauce, CLICK HERE. Then, follow the remaining steps.
Bring about 1 ½ cups of tomato sauce to medium heat (don’t let it bubble much, you don’t want it to burn).
Add the zoodles and let “stew” for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you notice the sauce beginning to become watery and the zucchini breaking down too much, remove from heat early.
Once the zucchini has softened slightly, remove from heat. Serve!
ALFREDO I know–this one might seem a little weird, but at the suggestion of a friend I gave it a try and it is so, so good.
¼ c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for topping)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper (plus more for topping)
¼ c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add heavy cream and raise heat to medium heat. The cream will start to bubble and thicken.
Stir often to keep cream from sticking and reduce heat if it begins to look like it’s ‘boiling’.
Add the cheese and stir vigorously to melt the cheese into the sauce.
Add the zoodles immediately after the cheese has melted. Toss to coat using a spaghetti spoon and allow the zoodles to cook in the sauce for 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the heat before the zucchini becomes too soft.
Serve topped with parsley (optional), grated cheese and fresh cracked black pepper. Yum!
I feel like alfredo always gets a bad rap because it can be super fatty—like when you order it at a chain restaurant and it is probably made mostly of some kind of fake dairy product or weird by-product fat that did not come from an animal. Animal fat is not bad for you—in moderation. Especially those animal fats which melt at a high temperature, like duck fat. Which is how I typically justify duck fat fries, though I don’t eat them often enough where I should have to justify them, but still.
I like to make pasta alfredo from scratch because it’s just so easy. And please keep in mind that this recipe is not a “traditional” pasta alfredo. It does not call for any eggs and literally will take less time to cook than the pasta will, so pay attention and try not to be too impatient (like me). Since I don’t like to have any meals that exclude vegetables, I almost always add broccoli to my alfredo and most times I add chicken, which is optional here.
The other night, after a nice strength-building workout at the gym, I whipped this together for Mike and I in enough time that I almost didn’t realize I was famished from my workout. It is super important to me that I’m able to put something together quickly after I exercise—even though I always snack beforehand—because I have no patience when it comes to my hunger. And yes, I get hangry and it’s not pretty.
This recipe does not need much introduction or explanation, so I will let it speak for itself. Here she is:
Pasta with Homemade Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
½ lb. pasta of choice, (penne and gemelli are my personal favorites)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream (they sell it in this size at the market)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano, or cheddar, or whatever flavor you are feeling)
3-4 crowns of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Methodology & Instructions:
Steam in a small sauce pot, with the olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper, over medium heat.
Depending on how mushy you like your broccoli, this should only take 5-8 minutes. Avoid raising the heat so that the garlic cooks but doesn’t burn.
Start your water boiling for your pasta. If you’re unsure of how much water, etc., read the instructions on the pasta box. 🙂 Once the water is boiling and the pasta is in the pot, move to step 2.
Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a large saucepan.
Once it’s nice and melty, add the heavy cream and increase to medium heat. The cream will eventually begin bubbling and thickening. This is good. Stir often to avoid sticking and lower the heat if it begins thickening too quickly.
Once the pasta is fairly al dente (not fully cooked by any manner), strain and add to alfredo sauce. Keep the heat on the pan, letting the pasta cook in the sauce and marry a little bit. (That’s what my mom likes to call it.)
Add the cheese after 3-4 minutes, but be careful because you need to serve almost immediately. Make sure the pasta is cooked to your desired chewiness before adding the cheese.
Lastly, toss the broccoli in with the pasta and toss to coat. The garlic will add a little extra flavor to the alfredo, too.
Kill the heat, plate this deliciousness and enjoy.
So, a few weeks before Chridtmas was the last time I’ve eaten Chinese food. Possibly ever. On this occasion, I had orange chicken over white rice, a favorite of mine, an egg roll and some beef teriyaki skewers. The weird thing was, within an hour I was sort of nauseous. Not like, I’m gonna be sick nauseous, it was more just this feeling of disgust with eating battered, fried chicken parts drenched in that sticky-sweet-and-spicy sauce. I couldn’t even think about it without my stomach turning over. Needless to say, I was not pleased and haven’t ordered Chinese since. (Not that I eat it often in the first place.) It still kinda feels like I had this big fight with Chinese takeout and we broke up. And I have a feeling I won’t be calling anytime soon.
A few months ago, however, I found a recipe for fried rice in Bon Appetit. It was a recipe that was a little out of my league and was provided by the magazine’s editor, Adam Rapaport. I check his note in every issue and, while this one was not what I was looking for, it was a challenge. It inspired me. I had my mind set. I would find a way to create delicious fried rice somewhere between soy-soaked Japanese hibachi and dry Chinese takeout. My mission had been decided and it didn’t take long to figure out, which was an awesome personal victory. The best part is, you can alter this to be low-sodium or even eliminate the soy sauce if you are super salt concerned.
Please note, before reading, that the method/instructions for this recipe are slightly advanced, but detailed. Keep in mind that the fried rice process happens rather fast and that it’s OK if it takes a few tries to really nail it. With this particular recipe, I have included some tips and struggles I experienced throughout the process. RIFS Homemade Fried Rice
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 c. cooked jasmine rice
1/4 c. broccoli florets
1/4 c. celery and carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. sweet onion, diced
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp. raw sugar
2 tbsp. chicken broth Methodology & Instructions:
1. Heat grapeseed oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. (Be very careful using a cast iron pan at this heat.)
2. Cook broccoli, carrots and celery, tossing vigorously, about 1-2 minutes. *If you like to keep frozen broccoli on hand, like I do, do make life easier, DO NOT put frozen broccoli directly into the pan. You will get spattered with hot oil. Do not make the rookie mistake I made.*
3. Add egg and stir/scramble vigorously until nearly fully cooked, about 30 seconds – 1 minute.
4. Add rice. Stir into mixture and then pat down into pan for 30-45 seconds at a time to crisp and dry out rice grains without burning. In between, stir together vigorously. Repeat process for 5-6 minutes. If rice doesn’t show signs of browning, continue a bit longer.
5. Add soy sauce. Repeat pressing and stirring process for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add sugar, onion, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp. of each). Repeat pressing and stirring process until onion softens and becomes translucent, 1-2 minutes.
7. Pour chicken broth around edges of the pan, press and stir until broth evaporates.
This month’s issue of Bon Appetit was the Winter Survival Issue for 2014 and provided me with some delicious dishes to serve up while trying to keep warm. Yesterday, I threw together my own rendition of warming comfort food for a quickly assembled Sunday night dinner.
There are a few things I’ve been meaning to make this winter that I haven’t gotten to yet: French Onion Soup & my own homemade Tomato Sauce. I still had some Turkey Tortilla Soup left in the freezer that I defrosted for the week, so I decided to spend yesterday making sauce and baking some Bacon Oatmeal Raisin cookies (recipe here) which I saw in Bon Appetit some time ago – that recipe needs some tweaking because my cookies came out hard as rocks and I don’t know if it’s my fault or the recipes, I’ll have to check with the experts (Mom, Grandma & Aunty Jen). My sauce recipe isn’t anything crazy special, but it caters to my desired taste & I really look forward to eating it once it’s simmering on the stove. For my own purposes, I only make about a quart at a time – I usually end up freezing half of it, too, since at this point in my life it’s really only me eating it – so you can double or triple this recipe if you please! I almost always make at least one of the meals with it as tomato cream sauce because it’s easily one of the most delicious things you can do with tomato sauce. It’s similar to a vodka sauce but easier to make! (I’ll add the steps for making the tomato cream at the end.)
The Food Snob’s Tomato Sauce
1/4 c. sweet or white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (your choice, I use Del Monte’s Italian Recipe) stewed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste (I use Hunt’s, no salt added)
2-3 very ripe on-the-vine tomatoes, or any others you need to use up (I usually clean at least the seeds out)
2-3 TBSP olive oil
salt, pepper, sugar, basil (for flavor!)
First, start with any ripened tomatoes you have lying around that you need to use up or some soft, bright red ones you might find hanging out with the vine-ripes at the market. I always start my sauce with fresh tomatoes to give it a little added sweetness and chunkier texture (I like lumps in my sauce, but nothing crazy). Start by heating the olive oil – I use half Canola, half EVOO so the flavor isn’t overpowering – in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, use just enough to coat the bottom so that your garlic and onion don’t burn. Once it’s up to temp, add your garlic and onions and stir them in to coat them in the oil. Add salt and pepper to flavor both ingredients. Once the onions are translucent and soft, add all your tomatoes, along with salt & pepper to season them, and bring the heat down to a simmer. Cover this mixture and let it ‘sweat’ for about an hour, the tomatoes will start to break down. Once the tomatoes start to look like a puree, you can add your canned tomatoes. Bring the heat up to medium and fill the can from the tomatoes about 1/3 of the way with water, swirl it around so you get all the rest of that good stuff and then pour it in the pot. Sprinkle about 2 tsp of sugar over the top and add the tomato paste. Return heat to a simmer and cover. Cook about 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, or until all tomatoes are tender. I sometimes use a potato masher to make sure none of the tomato pieces are too big.
Once the sauce is put together, making the tomato cream is the easiest thing in the world. I also like to make my own garlic bread (yesterday I got lazy and bought some frozen) to dunk in the sauce because I’m gluttonous about my pasta, with no shame. For a green yesterday I reheated some leftover broccoli rabe, but almost anything goes with this including a small portion of salad.
For the Tomato Cream Sauce: Heat 1 parts heavy cream to 2 parts Tomato Sauce over medium-low heat in a medium pot/large sauce pan, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, boil pasta in a separate pot (I used Rigatoni yesterday) to just before al dente. Add a small amount of the pasta water into your sauce before draining – this will help the sauce and pasta come together better. Once drained, add pasta into sauce and turn heat up to medium. Stir occasionally until sauce bubbles and thickens, then remove from heat and add about 1/8 c. grated cheese. Stir until cheese melts into the sauce and serve immediately. Enjoy!
For Garlic Bread: Finely chop some garlic early in the day, like when you’re making your sauce, and store it in just enough Canola oil in a small cup in the fridge. Before you put the sauce and pasta on the stove, use a kitchen brush or the back of a small spoon to spread some of the garlic oil onto both sides of slices of Italian bread. Set the oven to BROIL. Let bread stand for a few minutes so the oil soaks in. Broil about 4-6 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven or until golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with grated cheese and fresh finely chopped parsley if desired. Serve with your pasta.
I couldn’t have been more pleased with this meal last night! As I said, the cookie recipe that I was juggling while I was making the sauce needs some tweaking, but otherwise I was pleasantly full by the time I went to bed and warmed to the core! I hope this brings as big a smile to your face.
I am really bad at remembering to post on here and that this exists. I love writing and cooking, but that doesn’t mean that I have my shit together, unfortunately.
This Fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas were awesome – ending in the devastating beating my Broncos took in Superbowl XLVIII Sunday night – and 2014 has been fantastic so far. My brief hiatus was due to the fact that I started the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College in September and I will be enrolled until May 2015, the earliest. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had time to try some new recipes or go out and sample some new eats. My goals in 2014 are to take more yoga classes and utilize my blog the way that I intended to, which is good news to anyone who likes the type of food I like.
I have the privilege of owning Giada’s new book, Feel Good Food, which I received as a Christmas gift. (I also subscribe to Giada’s digital weekly magazine on my iPhone via Newsstand, and it is fabulous.) I have also been racking my brain for a recap of any restaurant bites I may have enjoyed (or not enjoyed) recently and I hope I can provide at least a few – it’s tough to go out to eat at this time of the year when it’s better to cook and be in sweatpants all day. I have a pretty healthy to-do list, though, for new places to try and will be traveling to West Yarmouth, MA (Cape Cod) for a one-night Valentine’s getaway next week, which will hopefully include another discovery!
Recipes for this post: Meatless Mexican Rice Bowl, ‘My Favorite Things’ Salad
I had to include a picture of one of the beautiful ruby reds I have been getting at Trader Joe’s because they’re one of my favorite things in the entire world. They’re in season right now, so they’ve been especially delicious and perfect for snacking between meals on something sweet without the guilt.
The ‘My Favorite Things’ Salad was comprised mostly of leftovers and inspired by the arugula salad they’re serving up at Providence Coal Fired Pizza – I would highly recommend it, along with the broccoli rabe & sausage pizza. For this salad, I tossed some baby arugula with shaved fennel, leftover roasted sweet potatoes, halved grape tomatoes and shaved proscuitto (I prefer Proscuitto di Parma, but any will do) with a balsamic vinaigrette to which I added lemon juice for a nice, fresh flavor. This salad was a good serving size for lunch OR dinner: I would say I used a couple handfuls of arugula and about 1/4 cup of each of the other ingredients, with the exception of the fennel which was only a few tablespoons. This one was not the scientific or measured recipe because it was one of those ‘What do I have in the fridge?’ recipes that I sort of flung together without taking notes.
Meatless Mexican Rice Bowl
I’m always craving this delicious mixture of Fiesta Sides Spanish Rice, chopped up hot dogs and melted cheese that Mike’s mom makes from time to time, so I tried a bunch of combinations of things to make a (somewhat) healthier version of it until I found one that worked. This recipe makes just enough for a big lunch or moderate dinner portion.
1/3 c. jasmine rice
1/4 c. canned (sweet) corn
1/4 c. canned black beans (no salt added preferably)
2-3 tbsp. halved grape tomatoes or quartered cherry tomatoes
1-2 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
2 tbsp. Mexican-blend shredded cheese
Boil rice with 1 tsp. each of cumin & chili powder according to package directions. Just before rice is done with heat still on low/simmer, stir in the rest of the spices, corn, black beans and tomatoes. (Add more spice to taste, I like it spicy!) Cover until tomatoes are soft and begin to create a reddish color in the rice. Stir until tomatoes have broken down completely, then sprinkle cheese over the top and cover to melt. Serve with chucks or slices of avocado on top.
I wish I had a photo of that rice bowl because I was so thrilled when the recipe turned out the results I had been looking for, but I don’t. I’ll try to provide photos with my recipes whenever possible in the future. I don’t have ANY photos, unfortunately, of the delicious bites I’ve had recently either, but I will share a couple.
The Italian Corner, East Providence: Absolutely 100% authentic Italian deli serving up some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting. They’re house dressing is the most delicious basil-pesto-y concoction I’ve ever had in my life to date. Of course I had a caprese sandwich (tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil) with some added Proscuitto di Parma, but I can’t wait to go back and explore the menu more.
Corner Bakery Cafe, Warwick & Cranston: This place is a chain, I know, but I’ve been waiting for it to be built in Garden City Center and now there is also one on Route 2. I loved it from my first visit because everything is made FRESH to order! (Unlike Panera, blegh.) I had a delicious chicken tortilla soup here (which inspired me to try making my own tortilla soup – recipe coming soon!) paired with a club sandwich of turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato & mayo. YUM! There’s also table service for your food so you don’t have to carry a big heavy buzzer with you and get up to go get your food off of a counter where there is a crowd of people waiting and worry about leaving all your personal belongings unattended. It’s great!
The Mooring, Newport: I enjoyed a lovely dinner with my mom and grandma on a snowy Saturday night in Newport before attending Christmas at the Breakers. I was not 100% satisfied with my choice of entree, which was mostly my own fault, but the crab cakes I had as an appetizer were outrageous. There were a few options on the menu that I would return to test before making a decision based on that one menu selection (it was sort of a take on a Monte Cristo but was way more than any person can handle in one sandwich).
I can’t wait to have some more new bites in the upcoming months and try out some more recipes that I can share with you. I’ve been trying to eat the most balanced diet possible and include as many greens as my appetite will allow. I’m also excited about juicing and trying some of Giada’s mixtures as well as others in order to get that delicious kind of raw flavor I’m always looking for in the shakes/juices I buy at the market. I’ll be sure to include my successes and failures in upcoming posts.