Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bryn & Melany's Sweet Celebration

This weekend, Bryce and I traveled to Visalia, California for a wedding.  Bryce's cousin Bryn married his lovely wife Melany.

I was able to get the know the love birds back in October when they spent a week visiting us in Hawaii.  We had a great time together hanging out, hiking, going to the beach, and of course eating.  I fed them their first pierogies, we had a breakfast of delicious crepes with strawberries and chocolate sauce, discovered at a fantastic and adorable Italian restaurant in Waikiki, and so on.  Those two aren't afraid of good food!

So this weekend we celebrated their wedding and were able to feast on many sweet treats!  First, the rehearsal dinner was held at the cute little Italian restaurant where they got engaged.  Upon entering the back room, we came upon this:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Cook-In

Happy Memorial Day!

Today, Bryce and I flew back to Hawaii after spending some time in California.  He went for 2 weeks and I went for a 4-day weekend.  On Saturday, Bryce was the best man to his cousin Bryn during his wedding to his lovely bride Melany!  Needless to say, we ate and drank like Kings and Queens all weekend long.  (Post on wedding cakes coming soon!)

When we got home the first of the avocados had fallen from the tree in our yard!  Other than those, there wasn't much to eat.  We decided to have a Memorial Day Cook-In and just relax at home.

Our menu included Spinach, Avocado, and Orange Salad and Maryland Fried Chicken with Creamy Gravy, both from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, plus some homemade mashed potatoes.

Spinach, Avocado, and Orange Salad

6 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, and sliced
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Place spinach in a large bowl or serving planner.  Arrange raspberries, orange, and avocado on spinach.

For dressing, combine vinegar, oil, Dijon mustard, and honey.  Mix well.  Instead of shaking the dressing in a screw-top jar as suggested, I used my Pampered Chef salad dressing mixer!  Pour over the spinach mixture.

This salad was so easy to make and is so, so beautiful!  It sure beats a regular lettuce and veggies salad.  The dressing was really refreshing and we want to try it on a regular salad!

Before the dressing.

With dressing.

Such beautiful colors and varied textures, it deserves a close up!

Maryland Fried Chicken with Creamy Gravy

I'm posting the recipe although I didn't make it, Bryce did!

1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup finely crushed saltine crackers (28 crackers)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2.5 pounds chicken thighs
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
1 recipe Creamy Gravy

In a small bowl combine the egg and the 3 tablespoons milk.  In another bowl combine crushed crackers, thyme, paprika, and pepper.  Dip chicken pieces, one at a time, in egg mixture; roll in cracker mixture.

Here's Bryce, hard at work!

In a large skillet brown chicken in hot oil over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Add 1 cup milk to skillet.  Heat just to boiling.  Reduce heat to medium low; partially coved skillet.  Cook for 35 minutes.  Uncover; cook about 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink.

Remove chicken, cover, and keep warm.

Make Creamy Gravy:

Combine 3/4 cup milk, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt,  and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in a container with lid; cover and shake until well combined.  Add to skillet with drippings from chicken.  Stir in an additional 1 cup milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir for one minute more.

The chicken was very tender and juicy and the coating was just right!  The creamy dressing was delicious and the mashed potatoes made a perfect side.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fab Friends & Stuffed Shells

I am blessed with some really, really wonderful friends.  Let me share with you a little bit about 2 of them.

"My" Sandy was my babysitter from the time I was 6 weeks old up until I went to school.  I was the flower girl in both of her daughter's weddings, went on vacations with their family, babysat the grandchildren, and so on.  They are all like family to me.  My Sandy loves the color red.  I couldn't help but think of her when I selected red for my first Le Creuset item, setting the standard for many more items to come!  Just a few weeks after I made that purchase I opened my front door to a package marked "Chef's" on the side.  What a fantastic surprise it was to find a red, rectangular Le Creuset covered casserole dish from My Sandy inside!  I was so excited, thrilled, and especially touched to have received such a nice gift from My Sandy, thank you so much!

Here's what it looks like:

Another good friend of mine is Deanna.  She's also Pittsburgh girl who lives in Hawaii.  She was a pierogi with me for Halloween, demanded that we have our own fish fry, and even re-made my upside down pizza casserole and sent me photos.  Deanna volunteered to take care of my cat, Bagheera, for my upcoming trip to the mainland.  Being one of my blog's biggest supporters, Deanna read the cannoli post and admitted to me that she's never seen the Godfather.  Could we still be friends?  Yes.  Although she had to see it, and right away!  Today, Deanna came over to meet Bagheera, watch the Godfather, and grub!

I used my fabulous new casserole dish from My Sandy to make dinner for Deanna.  Good ju-ju all around!  

Using the Wiseguy Cookbook, written by Henry Hill (the guy that Goodfellas is based on), I made (with some small changes) Stuffed Shells with Tomato Mint Sauce.  I've always wanted to make stuffed shells, which are one of my Mom's specialties.  The mint in the sauce is what really sold me on this recipe.


Stuffed Shells with Tomato Mint Sauce

16 jumbo shells

for the sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
28 ounce can of tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves From the plant on my porch!
2 teaspoons dried parsley During my next trip to Home Depot I'll get a parsley plant!
Salt and pepper to taste

for the filling
15 ounce container ricotta cheese I used part-skim ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus 1/4 cup more for topping)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt & pepper

Cook the shells until barely al dente and drain well.  Mom told me to lay them out flat to prevent them from sticking, so I did.  

for the sauce
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and cook briefly, stirring.  Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir well.  Add mint and parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-high heat until sauce begins to bubble.  Stir well, then lower to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes while you stuff the shells.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

for the filling
Combine cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan) in a large bowl and add beaten egg, parsley, and salt and pepper.

Then, mix thoroughly.

Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the bottom of your fancy new casserole dish enough to hold the shells in a single layer.  Fill shells with the ricotta mixture and place in dish.  

Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until heated through.  Mangia!

These shells were amazing and the sauce was even better!  I'll never make sauce without mint again, no lie.  The mint was such a refreshing pop of flavor in the sauce and really added to the overall taste of the dish.  My Mom's stuffed shells have spinach in them and I didn't miss it at all.   Mom, if you're reading this, forget the spinach!  The three cheeses were such a great combination, tucked so neatly inside the shells.  

The photos only show 1 of the 2 trays that were made!  Using an entire box of shells was far too much.  I now have plain, cooked, non-stuffed shells, in addition to many, many leftover stuffed shells.  This recipe is going in the favorites, thanks Henry Hill!  All my life I wanted to be a gangster...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pesto Shrimp Mac & Cheese

I don't remember Benjamin Buford Blue, aka Bubba, saying anything about Pesto Shrimp Mac & Cheese, do you?

Here's a video of another one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump.  My family's dog is even named Forrest.  (I have no rights to this video, just borrowing!)

I even have a Bubba Gump Shrimp cookbook (thanks My Sandy!) that's all shrimp recipes, although this one is from the Better Homes & Gardens book.  

For Le Creuset's very first meal I made Pesto Shrimp Mac & Cheese!

Pesto Shrimp Mac & Cheese

1 pound frozen shrimp (We buy the already cleaned shrimp with tails removed, the ones we used were teeny tiny!)
8 oz elbow macaroni
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk (Instead of half-and-half)
5 oz shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped 

To start, preheat the oven to 350.  

Cook and drain the macaroni.  

Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with a paper towel.  (This is where you'd have to peel, clean, de-vein and remove the tails from the shrimp, then chop them.  I was able to skip all of those steps with the shrimp I bought!)

In a large bowl stir together eggs, butter, and milk, like so:

Add chopped basil, 1 cup of fontina cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper. 

Add the sauce to the macaroni.

Add the shrimp.

Stir it all together and transfer to your fancy new Le Creuset!

Isn't it beautiful?  The French oven, not the raw shrimp, ew.

Finally, add the remaining cheeses.  Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes or until shrimp are cooked. 

Here's the finished product!  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Le Creuset is not joking around when they tell you these things hold heat for a long time.  We had our friends over for dinner, had even eaten seconds and dessert, and the Le Creuset was still hot! Not warm, hot.  It's amazing.

The Pesto Shrimp Mac & Cheese was very good!  The fresh basil from my plant was so fragrant and yummy.  I skipped the optional pine nuts this time, but will certainly add them if I ever make this again.  The little shrimp got even smaller once they were cooked so I'd also recommend using at least medium size.  

Bubba's Momma, and her Momma before her would be proud of this dish!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

The Godfather is one of the most classic movies ever made and my favorite!  (Tied for #1 with the Wizard of Oz, technically.)  

Before we get into the food we need to talk more about The Godfather…

My dear Aunt Josephine actually scolded me for watching the movie.  Unbeknownst to me, there's a rule in our family that we do not watch the Godfather!  As Josephine says "it makes our people look bad".  The story goes that Josephine and some of our other family members (keep in mind that we are Sicilian) went to see the movie in the theater when it first came out.  They didn't need those silly English subtitles to translate the conversations in Italian.  When the movie was over some family members were thrilled that the familiar Italian-American culture was on the Big Screen!  Joesphine  they demanded that nobody else in the family see it.  That was what, almost 40 years ago?  You can feel free to take a poll of my family to see how many people stuck to that rule, I wouldn't bet that very many have disobeyed!  

I personally didn't know we weren't "allowed" to see it when I first watched.  It wasn't until my 19th year on this Earth that I saw it.  The first time I watched it was on a portable DVD player on a Greyhound bus.  You can imagine the scene with the oddball bus riders surrounding me as I'm gasping in horror while Woltz finds that lovely present in his bed.  From then on I have been obsessed.

If you haven't seen it, watch it and then talk to me about it like it's your favorite too.  Otherwise, we're not friends anymore.  Unless, of course, your family has a rule too!  One of the most famous scenes and lines of the film involves another of my favorites: cannoli.

For your viewing pleasure:  (I have no rights to anything, just borrowing this clip from youtube!)

Now, the cannoli…

Did you know the word cannoli means "little tube"?  I just found that out!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Impromptu Pizza

On Friday night I finally made it home at 8 pm.  After a long, long week all I wanted to do was relax, have a drink, and dinner.  Bryce was at the baseball game and I had the apartment to myself.  

After assessing the food situation in my home, I could have selected from the following for dinner:
  • Cannoli filling
  • Ramen noodles
  • Peanut butter and jelly on the ends of the loaf of bread
Thoughts of take out began bombarding my brain!  I could get thai food from the restaurant down the street, enjoy my annual trip to Taco Bell via the drive through window, or call Papa John's and order a pizza with extra, extra, extra garlic sauce.  As indulgent and tempting as those all sound (Yes, I LOVE Taco Bell and have a problem with PJ's garlic sauce - both habits I picked up in college.  Maybe that's why I gained those 15 pounds!) I wanted something simple that also wouldn't put me into cardiac arrest only to have Bryce come home to find me dead in a pool of takeout and vodka, club soda, and cranberry juice.  I took another look in the fridge, this time getting a little more creative.

I took roll:
  • Crescent roll dough - here!
  • Mozzarella and fontina cheeses - we're here!
  • Tomatoes - present!
  • Basil - (Who yelled from the porch) I'm out here!
It was perfect, I was making a pizza!  Sorry Papa John.  


Preheat the oven to 375

Pop the crescent roll dough tube (isn't that so fun?) and roll the dough out on a baking stone, pressing all the seams together to create a big, seamless crust

Seed and slice 2 tomatoes and add them to the dough

Shred copious amounts of mozzarella and fontina cheese and evenly distribute to every inch of the pizza

Pick, rinse, and tear basil leaves, then add to the mix

Drizzle olive oil all over, then put into the oven for 11 - 13 minutes

My impromptu pizza before:  Colorful, cheesy, doughy, and fresh

Impromptu pizza after:  Golden brown, melty, flaky, and yummy

It was perfect!  The crescent rolls made a buttery, flaky crust and the fresh basil was a nice punch through the gooey cheese.  Is it just me or do tomatoes always seem to hold heat the longest?  I cut the pizza into 8 squares.  I immediately scarfed down 2, Bryce came home from the game and devoured 4, and the other 2 were my lunch on Saturday.  Maybe next time I'll find a recipe for homemade garlic sauce... now there's a good idea!    

Monday, May 9, 2011

Winning vs. Waffles

The contenders: 

Ang - 25 year old, female human with little patience for baking

Ciusinart Classic Waffle Maker - Brand new from Macy's with a buring desire to create delicious waffles

Round 1:

The waffle maker was requested by Bryce, as a birthday gift.  I was glad to oblige and for our household to have another cooking gadget/appliance, of course.  The day after his birthday we had planned to go out for a nice dinner.  He ended up getting sick so we decided to stay home and have breakfast for dinner a la the new waffle maker.


Ang started strong, prepping the waffle batter from scratch using the Better Homes & Gardens recipe.  The usually trusty book directed her to pour 1 cup of batter onto the iron, leading her to failure.  The Waffle Maker's instructions clearly state use 1/2 of a cup for a waffle.  So, 1 entire cup's worth of batter overflowed out of the Waffle Maker and all over the kitchen counter resulting in THE WAFFLE MAKER'S FIRST VICTORY!

Yelp Popularity

Have you been to a restaurant and seen people awkwardly taking photos of their food?  What about in the grocery store?  Those oddballs taking pics of the front of a restaurant or each page of a menu either have a food blog, or they Yelp.

Surely, you've heard of Yelp, no?  If not, I'm positive you've seen a circular red sticker on a store, restaurant, or other establishment's front door that says "People love us on Yelp!"  Right?  Still not with me?  Ok, the map on the right side of my blog is my Yelp review tracker.  Pretend like you know.

Yelp is where you go to rant and or rave about your experiences at restaurants, bars, stores, movie theaters, nail salons, etc.  You name it and Yelp's got it.  Photos and many, many reviews of these places for your perusing pleasure.  It's especially helpful when you want to go out to eat and don't know where to go!

Once a week Yelp sends out a newsletter and I was so giddy the day that one of my reviews was featured!  There I was, Angela A, in the "Live Music Roundup."  What's even better is that I was talking about the band at O'Toole's, my FAVORITE Irish Pub and the classy establishment where Bryce and I met!  The review is correct, I want more Johnny Cash at all times!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quatre Les Creusets

I went Le Creuset crazy, buying 4 (quatre) more wonderful French kitchen gems!

Another red, an orange, a blue, and a lime green - all rounds.  

I love them all as much as the next.  They're perfect!

You're probably wondering if I hit the lottery, traded in my car for Williams Sonoma store credit, or if I spent my month's salary on cookware.  

None of the above.  I love a good bargain, but this is insane.  Do you want to know how much I paid for 4 Le Creuset items?

12 dollars

If you haven't caught on by now, they're teeny tiny little refrigerator magnets!  I actually ordered them last week, prior to buying my actual life-sized Le Creuset item.  They were too cute to pass up, and the cheapest of all the brand's items!  I want more, I want a fridge covered in only Le Creuset magnets, and a golden goose!  Ok, I'm getting carried away now...

Here's the new items, in comparison to the actual lid!  So cute.

They have a very important job: holding up the cheesiest photos on our fridge, Bryce and I kissing dolphins!

With the photo/magnet combo, it's too cute for words!