Friday, January 31, 2014

Gourmet Dinner Club

Bialy Barszcz (Polish White Borscht)
One well known fact about me is that I love to entertain. Give me a reason and I'll host a party big or small. 10 years ago I started a dinner club with 12 of our friends. Then a year later I organized another dinner club with 12 more of our friends. Yes, for many years Dave and I were on dinner club overload. It's an absolute blast so trust me we don't mind! I titled our dinner club "Gourmet Club." Dinner Clubs have been around forever but each one is organized differently. Let me tell you a little bit about ours. The motto of our group is "Great Food, Great Wine, Great Times." There are six couples in our group and we meet every other month. So each couple hosts one time per year. The host is responsible for picking a date, selecting a dinner theme, sending out invitations and making the main entree. The guests are responsible for making one of the courses that goes along with the theme and providing a copy of their recipe. Each couple is also responsible for selecting a wine that pairs with their course. I could literally write a post that's a novel about about the amazing food, themes chosen and experiences we've had during the 10 years of our Gourmet Club. For example, when we started Gourmet Club with this group Dave and I were the only couple who had a child, today there are 14 kids total! In time, my posts will reveal more detail about our dinner club, as we meet every other month.
Mike and Heather our fabulous hosts in the center!
Tonight, Michael and Heather were hosts of Gourmet Club and their theme was Polish Fare. I was excited about this theme because my husband is 99.9% Polish (he says the .1% is Russian and he didn't learn this until a few years ago!). I am 100% Italian so much of our food consumption is on the Italian side, Dave always feels his heritage is slighted so for me learning more about Polish fare is awesome! I was the first course so I had to prepare either a soup or salad. I learned soup is almost always served at meal time in the polish culture, so it was a no brainer for me to choose soup.  I decided to make Bialy Barszcz, which is Polish White Borscht. It was delicious! Everyone's dishes were delicious! Here was our menu:

  • Appetizers: Bacon Spread on Rye Bread and Pickled Herring
  • First Course: Polish White Borscht
  • Main Entree: Polish Cabbage Rolls-Golabki & Pierogies
  • Side Vegetable: Mizeria (cucumber salad)
  • Side Starch: Potato Hash with Bacon
  • Dessert: Chantel's New York Cheesecake

We didn't go home hungry! Look at all that gourmet polish food!
Stunning Polish Table Scape
Bialy Barszcz (Polish White Borscht:

This recipe is taken from SAVEUR.

Ingredients:

2 lbs smoked kielbasa
2 tb unsalted butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 leeks trimmed and sliced
1 yellow onion diced
2 medium russet potatoes cut into cubes
2 sprigs marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup horseradish
salt n pepper
 1/4 cup dill
1 tb parsley
4 boiled eggs cut into wedges

Boil kielbasa and 8 cups of water in a 6 qt, saucepan. Reduce heat to medium low; cook to flavor broth about 25 minutes. Pour liquid and kielbasa into a bowl and reserve liquid. Return to saucepan to medium heat and add butter, garlic, leeks, and onion and cook until soft. Add reserved liquid, potatoes, marjoram, and bay leaf and cook until potatoes are tender. Discard marjoram and bay leaf; puree soup in a blender. Return soup to pot, bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk sour cream and flour in a bowl, add 1/2 cup soup and whisk until smooth. Pour mixture into soup; cook, stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cut kielbasa into 1/2 inch thick slices, add to soup along with horseradish, salt n pepper. Garnish with dill, parsley and eggs.

Food Impressions:

Dave: "Outstanding, rich and flavorful. Would have liked a little more horseradish."

Andrea (me): Although there are a lot of steps to this recipe I would definitely make this again, especially for the boys and Dave's family. I thought it was a fabulous choice for a first course. I think I would have made Dave's late Grandparents proud with this soup!

Everyone's overall impressions: Everyone ate everything last speck of soup on their plate. Heather said "This was sooo good I had to use bread to soak up every last bit." Coming from Heather, our host, who is 100% polish, I'll take that as a huge compliment!

*The other recipes from our dinner club will be added

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stella's Must Try Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Biscuits


A dear friend of mine, Christa, sent me this email the other day. It inspired me to make this recipe tonight for my family or should I say "The Siwiec Boys!" Stella is Christa's 12 year old daughter and let me tell you she was spot on, this dish was good! And in my opinion, any recipe from Ina Garten is a classic! Salute to Stella for the tasty chicken and stew recipe recommendation! 

We're excited to go skiing this weekend with you guys.  Hopefully it will be a little warmer than this craziness!  Please be sure to keep everything simple and let me know what I can bring.  Kids are REALLY excited.  

I made a chicken dish last night and everyone loved it.  We were talking about skiing with you guys and Stella said, "I think the Siwiec boys would really like what you just made for dinner."  I thought that was so cute.  So, as directed by Stella, here is the recipe. I used skinless chicken breasts and just used 2 Betty Crocker bagged mixes for the biscuits on top.  It was delicious!

Have a great day.  I am going to Bikram yoga today at noon.  I could careless about the fitness benefits of going, I just want to warm up in the 105 degree room!

Christa
Zachary adding on the biscuits!

Just out of the oven!

*This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook, Ina Garten, 2002

Ingredients:

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts (I used a rotisserie chicken)
3 tb oilive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5 cups of chicken stock
2 bullion cubes
12 tb unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups medium diced carrots
1 10 oz pk of frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen small pearl onions
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
*I also used 2 cups of corn

For the biscuits: (I used pillsbury biscuits from the can/2 tubes)

2 cups flour
1 tb baking powder
1 t kosher salt
1 t sugar
1/4 lb cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 cups half n half
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 egg mixed with 1 tb water for fresh egg wash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt n pepper. Roast 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from bones, remove skin and cut in large chunks (or just shred rotisserie chicken). In a saucepan, heat the chicken stock and bouillon cubes. In a large pot melt the butter and saute the onions over medium to low heat for 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock to the sauce and simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stir until thick. Add salt, pepper and heavy cream. Add the chicken, peas, carrots, onion, corn and parsley. Place in a baking dish 10 x 13 x 2. bake in oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add butter and mix with a beater on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add half in half and mix on low speed. Mix the parsley. Dump the dough on a well floured board and roll with a rolling pin. Roll to 3/8 inch. Cut into 12 circles with a 2 1/2 round cutter.

Remove stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on the top of the filling.  Brush them with egg wash and return the dish to the oven, Bake for another 20-30 minutes until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbling.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Wait there were onions in this?" (He said this after he finished his whole plate. He doesn't like onions but he seemed to dig them in this dish!)

Tyler: "Wow, Stella was right, I love this chicken stew."

Zachary: "It's salty and sweet and the same time. I really like this." (I think the sweetness came from the corn I added!)

Dave: "A little bland, what herbs are in this?" (I told him salt, pepper and parsley..that's it. He's a big flavor guy so while he ate everything on his plate he would have appreciated another level of spice.)

Andrea (me): It brought me back to a meal that's primitive in nature. A great classic! Thanks for the recommendation Stella and Christa!
Stella and Nate


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Now THAT'S a Rice Krispie Treat!

Yipppeee, today was another snow day in Buffalo. Schools weren't closed because of a snow storm, they were closed because the temperatures hit -30F this morning! This is the third day schools were closed due to frigid temperates. The boys and I lounged around most of the morning in our PJ's. The sun came out in the afternoon and the boys and I were getting slight cabin fever so we decided to go to Barnes and Noble Bookstore (*I can't wait to read the books I bought). We went to the Starbucks Coffee Shop in the bookstore to get treats and tea and the boys eye's popped out when they saw the giant marshmallow infused rice krispie treats.  Of course they wanted one but they were like $5.00 per treat and I wasn't going to spend that much. I told the boys I could make a huge giant platter for what one costs at Starbucks. They said "Okay, then you have to make a giant platter when we get home." I said "You're on!" So we stopped at Dollar General, bought a huge box of Rice Krispies Cereal - $3.00 and two bags of mini marshmallows for $2.00. My total cost $5.00! As soon as we got home we made the Rice Krispie Treats. It seriously took me 10 minutes to make! I would have waited in line longer than that at the bookstore! Plus, nothing beats homemade rice krispie treats! Salute to homemade giant sized rice krispie treats!
The best part of making rice krispie treats is licking the pan clean when it's still warm!


Ingredients:

1 12 oz. box of rice krispie cereal
2 bags of mini marshmallows
2 sticks of unsalted butter
optional - ball sprinkles (I add them because it adds extra crunch)

Melt Butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Turn off heat. Add the box of rice krispies and stir until well mixed. Add the sprinkles and stir. With a non-stick spray coat a 9 x 12 pan. Add rice krispie mixture to pan and let sit until cool. 

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Way better than Starbucks."

Tyler: "So yummy and krispalicious!"

Zachary: "100 times better than store bought rice krispies!"

Andrea (me): It reminded me of making them when I was growing up...except a heck of a lot easier. We didn't have non-stick pans so the marshmallow cleanup was a bear, plus I always seemed to burn the marshmallows at the bottom of the pan! None the less, they always tasted amazing!
* The books I bought today and can't wait to read:

 "I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali
"Blogging for Dummies" by Susan Gunelius

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Date with Tyler and Zachary

As much as Dave and I value quality family time together, every so often we divide and conquer the boys. With three boys ages 9, 9 and 11 there is always competition for the spot light. We do this because it gives the boys much needed one on one time with us and vice versa. We get to know them better and they get to know us better. I always say I get to know the "real" Nate, the "real" Tyler and the "real" Zachary when I spend time alone with them. Plus they get to know the "real" me, instead of the nagging yeller that I can be! When I am alone with one of the boys we call them "dates." When Dave is alone with one of the boys they call them "hang'n with dad." Our dates are always really special and always involve food! Today, it was Nate's day alone with Dave...they skied together and had a total blast. I had a date with Tyler and Zachary...and we did a bunch of crazy stuff, like did shots of Chlorophyll! When Dave and I have alone time with the boys we text pics of each other showing off what we are doing. I think I won! At the bottom of the post are pictures Dave sent me. Salute to dates and alone time with my boys!
We walked around the village of Ellicottville. 
Our first stop was lunch at Ellicottville Brewing Company. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay...why not, we were on a date!
We ordered their famous "Loaded Nachos with Chicken."
We devoured every last caloric morsel, with no guilt.
After lunch we stopped at Nature's Remedy a health food store. They were serving free shots of Chlorophyll (yes you read this correctly) and Energy Chocolate. We thought, why not try it...after eating 3000 calories of nachos maybe it would make us feel better, more healthy and rid the toxins. Honestly, I didn't know you could ingest chlorophyll, I thought you just found it in plants or something like that. They claim that there are several benefits of drinking it, like cleanses and oxygenates the blood, detoxes the body, heals wounds, fights infection, and is a natural body deodorizer! No offense but whoooo comes up with this stuff!! 
Tyler hesitantly doing a shot of Chlorophyll. Boys said it tasted like mouth wash, I agreed!
I passed on buying any!
Energy in chocolate, fantastic! I did buy some!
Next stop, Kazoo II. By far the boys favorite store in Ellicottville. Funky, unique items.
And final stop, Watson's Chocolates! Our health spurt lasted a whopping 10 minutes.  
We needed some whole milk chocolate yumminess!


Dave and Nate's Big Adventures!




Saturday, January 25, 2014

Red Wine Braised Beef in My Le Creuset


Definition of braising: a method of cooking food by first pan searing and browning in fat, and then simmering on low heat with liquid in a covered pot for hours. Andrea's definition of braising: a brilliant reason to use my Le Creuset! I love Le Creuset cookware and for years I longed for one. As tempted as I was, I never bought one because I couldn't swallow spending $300.00 on one pot. I know shocking because you all know how much I love to shop! My very dear friend John, who is probably one of the most giving and generous people I know, gave me a Le Creuset as a gift. No it wasn't my birthday, no it wasn't Christmas, he just bought me one because he was over for dinner one night and I was telling him how much I was craving one. The next day a huge wrapped Williams Sonoma box was at my doorstep and inside a shiny new 9 1/2 QT Oval French Oven model, in Marseille Blue! John is amazing, I know. John is also one of the best chefs in Buffalo and has made many lasting food impressions on me, but I'll save that for another post! My Le Creuset is one of the most gorgeous pieces of cookware I own. When I first received my Le Creuset I kept it on my stovetop because it reminded me of a piece of art. It was worthy of being put on display for everyone to see. After a month I couldn't leave it there anymore..it weighs a ton so moving it back and forth was becoming a royal pain! So now it sits pretty in my pantry.

I think Dave and the boys are happier than I am that John bought me a Le Creuset because they get to eat all of the deliciousness that's produced from it! This weekend was perfect for braising, especially since the Siwiec men skied all day. Their appetites were screaming for stick to your ribs, good for your soul comfort food. So it was an easy choice for me to make one of our favorites: Red Wine Braised Beef with Risotto. Braising is one of my preferred methods of cooking because it's virtually fail proof and it makes the most moist, tender, succulent pieces of meat. And the best part is that it fills the house with the most mouth watering aromas ever! Once the meat is pan seared, it cooks in the oven for hours and requires very little attention. So little attention that we all left the house to go to Holiday Valley and ski (well the boys skied and I sat in the lodge)! I actually browned the meat in the morning and just before we left I put the meat in the oven to braise! I certainly don't recommend leaving your house but if you needed to you could! As soon as we walked in the door the boys were like "Oh my gosh, it smells fantastic. When are we eating?" We all couldn't wait to eat. So Dave opened a bottle of wine, turned on some John Coltrane and I started making the risotto, which is the perfect compliment to braised beef, and Dave's favorite! When I started plating the food, everyone was hovering over me in the kitchen begging me to add more beef to their plates. Dave actually complained and said it wasn't fair that the boys got more meat than he did!  I have 4 boys, not 3! I made 5 lbs of beef thinking it would be even better the next day as leftovers for dinner...well no we at like 4 3/4 lbs at one sitting!  It was that super, that spectacular, that succulent! We kept oohing, and aahing like it was the 4th of July! Talk about lasting food impressions! Salute to John and his amazing gift to me, my Le Creuset!



Ingredients:

5 lbs. chuck roast beef
1 onion diced
3 celery stalks chopped and diced
1/2 bottle of dry red wine
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 tb minced garlic
6 cups beef stock
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 t. parsley
1 t. oregano
1 t. basil
1 t. thyme
salt n pepper

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Season chuck beef generously with salt n pepper. In a dutch oven/heavy pot, coat with olive oil and pan sear and brown beef on both sides over medium-high heat. Set beef aside on a platter. Using the fat and juices from the beef, sauté onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in pan over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Add beef broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, basil and thyme. Stir until mixed. Add beef back to liquid mixture. Cover pot and cook in oven for 3-4 hours or until beef is tender or falling apart when pulled with a fork. Serve in bowls with risotto/or mashed potatoes and pour beef gravy from pot.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "This is so scrumptious. This beef is epic and legendary."

Tyler: His actions said a thousand words...while I was serving Dave kept saying "Tyler wait for mommy to sit down." By the time I sat down he devoured almost all of his beef!

Zachary: His actions also said a thousand words...he barely spoke throughout dinner because he was eating non-stop. If you know Zachary, not much stops him from talking!

Dave: "Rich, flavorful, savory...simply amazing." And let's not forget "Hey why do the boys have more beef than I do?" I actually had to plate him more beef!

Andrea (me): So far, the best meal I've made in 2014! This is a keeper recipe boys!



Kale and Potato Soup with a Kick

Kale and Potato Soup



Well it's another ski day for the Siwiec family, minus me. I knew yesterday I would not be skiing today. The weather report was calling for blustery snowy conditions with winds up to 45 mph. Dave and the boys called me crazy for not wanting to ski. Several of the Western New York Ski Clubs were actually cancelled due to the weather advisory. So I called them crazy for wanting to ski! There is no doubt I am a fair weathered skier. Dave and the boys will ski in any conditions all day long, that's what die hards they are. Knowing I wasn't going to ski, I was really looking forward to being home by myself relaxing and watching episode after episode of House Hunters and Real Housewives of New York. Then I started feeling a little guilty for not wanting to ski. And Dave didn't help...he started laying it on thick by saying "Andrea don't forget one of the reasons we enjoy skiing so much is it allows us to spend quality time together as a family. Plus, if you don't go we'll be forced to eat the cafeteria style food at the lodge!" He knew that's all he had to say was cafeteria food. So the wonderful wife and mother that I am went with them; to spare them from having to eat the lodge chili of course. (let's not even get me started on the lodge chili cause that's a whole other post) I know call me a sap, call me a sucker, call me a sap sucker!  I caved. We compromised though, I brought my iPad and magazines to the lodge and relaxed while they skied. It wasn't so bad. I enjoyed people watching and checking out what other skiers brought to the lodge for lunch. One table had gumbo, one had ziti and meatballs, and another had pulled pork. Our table: Kale and Potato Soup. I've made this recipe before so I knew everyone would love it. Plus it's healthy! I added red pepper flakes which gave it a nice kick. The potatoes and cannellini beans make this a rustic hearty soup. I couldn't wait until lunch time.

After a few hours of skiing Dave and the boys walked into the lodge with bright red cheeks, frozen fingers and snow covered coats. They also had the biggest smiles on their faces when they saw me sitting there waiting for them with hot cocoa and hot soup. Nothing made me more happy! Was the lodge as comfortable as sitting at home on my plush couch? No. Was the lodge more entertaining than watching HGTV and BRAVO on our 60 inch flat screen TV? No. Was the lodge better choice for spending quality time with my family? Absolutely!

Salute to eating Kale and Potato Soup with my family at the ski lodge! 

Kale and Potato Soup (Click for recipe)

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 10 oz chopped kale
  • 2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • salt n pepper
  • small piece of parmesan cheese rind
  • shaved parmesan cheese

In a crockpot add all of the above ingredients except the shaved parm cheese. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Pour in soup bowls and add shaved parn cheese.

Food Impressions:

Zachary: "This soup is delicious. It's warming my tummy." He kept shaving parm cheese into his bowl.

Tyler: "I think I smelled your soup while I was skiing."

Nate: "Yummy. He kept adding fresh ground pepper for even a bigger kick." Had a second bowl.

Dave: "This soup is amazing.  I didn't think it would have the depth of flavors that it has. I like the heat from the red pepper flakes." He had two huge bowls.

Andrea (me): "The soup is so simple but has big flavors. It's a healthy soup and you feel good after eating it." So happy Dave convinced me to go to the lodge with them! Totally worth it. Now as far as tomorrow, thats a different story...I'll be at home watching my shows, guilt free!
Nate and Dave
Zachary and Tyler

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Soup for the Soul and Our Colds!


With the exception of Tyler, we all have colds right now. Being sick is the worst! Our noses are stuffed and our eyes are red and watery. We are sniffing, coughing, sneezing. and barely breathing. There are tissues everywhere. NyQuil and DayQuil have become our best friends. OK, I may be exaggerating a tad but you get my drift. But seriously, the absolute worst part about being sick is not being able to taste delicious foods and drinks. As soon as I started getting sick the first thing I said to Dave was "Darn, I think I'm getting a cold...now my wine isn't going to taste the same!" He laughed and said "Did you just hear yourself?" Hey, what can I say...I love my wine!

Growing up my mom would always make us Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup or Chicken with Stars (that was my fav) when we were sick. She would also make us toast and tea. Oh, and I can't forget the ginger ale. For what ever reason they always magically made me feel better. A fond food impression for sure! Every once in a while when my boys are sick I will open a can of Campbell's soup to make them feel better too. But tonight I am making my homemade Chicken Noodle Soup to soothe our colds.  I actually make this soup a lot, whether we are sick or not.  This is one of those recipes that I have been making for years and everyone LOVES it. And it's a soup that's good for the soul. One benefit of the boys getting older is having them help me out in the kitchen. Tyler helped me shred the rotisserie chicken for the soup. He really enjoys helping out, especially if it means eating along the way!  Salud to Chicken Soup for the soul and for our colds!"

Tyler shredding the chicken

Tyler sneaking a taste

Ingredients:

10 cups chicken stock
1 rotisserie chicken, diced
4 carrots sliced into pieces
4 celery stalks, diced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups small macaroni
salt n pepper
grated parmesan cheese

In a large soup pot add 2 tb of olive oil and heat on medium.  Add the celery and carrots for 10 minutes.  Add chicken stock, diced chicken and can of tomatoes.  Add salt n pepper to taste. Bring stock to a boil for 3 minutes. Turn heat to medium and let cook until until vegetables are tender.  Add macaroni until it's cooked through. Plate in soup bowls and add parm cheese and freshly grated pepper.


Food Impressions:

Andrea (me): The boys ditched me and my soup to go to ETS (Elmwood Taco and Subs) despite being sick! I have four words for them... NO SOUP FOR YOU! 

Dave: If you have a wicked food craving for tacos you just have to go for it! 


The best part is finding the wishbone!!!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gnudi...Who Knew?

Kale Gnudi


Last night I went out to dinner with my cousin Christine who also happens to be one of my best friends. My mom and her mom are sisters and ever since we were young girls we were always as close as two cousins can be. She is one year older than me and we have been through every stage of life together.  We went to elementary and high school together, we were on the same cheerleading team (she says I made the cheer team because of her exceptional coaching - I say I was just that exceptional!), I was out with her the night I met my husband at 67 West (she wanted to go home hours earlier but stayed knowing how well Dave and I were hitting it off - love you for that!), she was my bridesmaid, she is the Godmother of Nate and Tyler and she, and her dog Meeko are adored by all three of my boys.  I don't see her as often as I would like but when I do see her we make sure to schedule a good three hours together.  We went to a great restaurant called CRAVing. As I was perusing the menu I noticed a dish called Gnudi on the specials list.  I had never heard of it before but it sounded intriguing. There were so many other fabulous entrees on the menu that I didn't even bother asking the waiter what gnudi was. So we ordered Surf & Turf Sliders, Steak, Banana Peppers & Goat Cheese Pizza and Butternut Squash Handkerchief Pasta...everything was superb, including our barely grasping for air conversation!

So the next morning at work I passed by the Buffalo News which was sitting on a table outside of my office. I glanced at the "Taste" section and it had the most beautiful delectable looking dish on the cover. It looked like a cross between gnocchi and spinach meatballs, minus the meat. The big bold headline was titled "Getting to Know Gnudi." I was like OMG, gnudi was on the specials menu at CRAVing and now I'm seeing gnudi again.  I'm thinking wow, this might be a sign, a match made in heaven, I need to get to know gnudi!!! Sorry Dave- didn't mean to get so carried away! After reading the article I learned that Gnudi is an italian dish that dates back to the 1200's!  Man- gnudi is old, like really old. Being 100 % italian I'm a bit embarrassed to even admit that I had never heard of it before. Gnudi is pronounced like new-dee and they are basically ricotta dumplings. From the article they looked delicious, sounded delicious so I was like I am so making these magical morsels for dinner tonight. Luckily, I had all of the ingredients on hand except the ricotta, no big deal I just stopped at Dash's to get some. I also didn't have spinach, I had kale so I used that instead, very wise choice by the way!  The recipe was easy to make and most of the ingredients are staples in many households. It tastes similar to gnocchi but it's creamier and less dense. I served it as a main entree for my family. I didn't serve a protein with it and I was satisfied, Dave on the other hand thought braised beef or a hearty fish would be a nice compliment. There are so many variations, it can be made with squash or spinach or it can be served with a butter sage sauce or a marinara sauce like I did.

So would I make gnudi again? Absolutely! Who knew he'd be so great. Salute, to you getting to know Gnudi too!


Kale Gnudi (click to print recipe)

This recipe makes about 30

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 12 oz cooked kale finely chopped
  • salt n pepper
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

In a medium size pot boil water and add salt.  In a large mixing bowl mix all of the ingredients. with floured hands, shape ricotta mixture into tablespoon sized balls, pictured above. Set ricotta balls on wax paper before cooking them.  Place 6-8 balls in boiling water. Do not overcrowd. Once balls surface to the top of the water cook for 4 more minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove balls from water and place on a plate with olive oil. Boil the rest of the ricotta balls. For a main entree serve 5-6 per plate and add heated marinara sauce.  Eat and enjoy!

Food Impressions:

Nate: He tasted one bite and his facial expression looked like he had just bitten into a sour lemon! I said "Nate, don't you like it?"  He said "No, it's actually pretty good but it doesn't taste like pasta."  I said "It's not really supposed to it's a ricotta dumpling." He didn't eat anymore, I don't think he could get passed the texture thing.

Zachary: "Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. I want more. What is this stuff again?" (Hey what can I say it has ricotta and parm cheese, of course he's gonna love it!)

Tyler: "Wow, this is really yummy." (He devoured his gnudi within minutes!)

*In addition to the boy's food impressions, they also got a good laugh out of pronouncing the name of the dish and kept saying NUDE-EE!

Dave: "These taste like airy light clouds of deliciousness. Each bite you take has layers of flavor."
I could tell he was enjoying giving me his food impression...he would take a small bite, chew slowly, sip some wine, then comment.  He repeated that process over and over!

Andrea (me): I thought this dish were absolutely delicious. I really enjoyed making this new recipe and watching my family's reaction when they took their first bite.  With the exception of Nate, everyone really loved it, so I would for sure make this again. It would also be good as an appetizer.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Lasagna...so worth the extra steps


Anytime I ask Dave what he'd like for dinner, his answer is always lasagna or risotto. He answers with lasagna or risotto as more of a joke because he knows 9 out of 10 times my answer will be no. Lasagna and risotto are amongst some of the foods, like bouillabaisse that I love but won't make during the week because of a few reasons. 1) there are too many steps, 2) the cooking process is involved or 3) there are way too many ingredients. Trust me, I love those foods just as much as he does but the thought of cooking them during the work week is dreadful, hence why I say no!  Let me explain further. Lasagna - too many steps....brown the beef, boil the noodles, mix the ricotta and eggs, layer, layer, layer and yes, layer, then finally bake...FOR AN HOUR! Geez the thought alone is making me tired. Risotto - involved cooking process....in order for it to taste right each step has to be cooked with perfection, plus you have pay very close attention while cooking or it will turn to mush. Bouillabaisse - too many ingredients...there are like 20 plus ingredients in this recipe and at least 5 of them are different types of fish, holy break the bank week night meal. I love making each of these recipes but pleeease some are just not meant to be made during the week!

When I asked Dave what he wanted me to make for dinner this weekend he immediately responded with "Lasagna." Well guess what, it was Dave's lucky day because I said "YES!" I said yes because it was on a Sunday, I had the time and we were having friends over. So I put my A-Game on and made a killer lasagna! My friend admitted that she had never made lasagna before. It amazes me when I hear that a grown adult has never made lasagna before! Many people avoid making lasagna because they think it is too difficult or complicated. I think it's quite easy. There are just a lot of steps to follow, and unlike risotto the steps don't have to be precise..and that's a good thing! Before my beloved Grandmother Brigid passed away she gave me several of her kitchen items and one was her extra large-deep dish lasagna pan. Love it, thank you grandma! If you don't have one, buy one.  If you are anything like me, one who doesn't make lasagna often, it's worth it buying a pan that allows you to make a ton at once. So if you have never made lasagna before or you simply want to make your significant-other super happy than make this mouth watering, make your house smell good, worthwhile meal! Salute to lasagna and taking the extra steps to making it!

Ingredients:

1  pound box lasagna noodles
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion diced
3 jars of your favorite tomato sauce
1 16 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 tb dried parsley
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parm cheese
2 tb minced garlic
salt n pepper
olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a saute pan brown ground beef and onion on medium heat, when cooked, set aside. In a large bowl mix ricotta cheese, garlic, eggs, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, parm cheese, parsley and salt n pepper well and set aside.  Boil water in a large pot for lasagna noodles. Now ready to assemble and layer. Drizzle olive oil at the bottom of lasagna pan (should be at least 9 x 13) and some tomato sauce to coat. Dip noodles in boiling water for 1 minute.  Place noodles on bottom of pan, then top with ricotta mixture, then beef, then tomato sauce.  Dip another 4 noodles for 1 minute then add to first layer, add ricotta, add ground beef and add sauce.  Keep layering until you reach top of pan.  I usually have 3-4 layers.  Top with sauce to coat every noodle. Bake in oven for 50 minutes. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese to lasagna and bake for another 10 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving to allow cheese to set. Top with sauce and parm cheese.

* I'm not a fan of using uncooked lasagna noodles or fully cooked noodles. I dunk them for 1 minute in boiling water so they absorb the water and thus, cook evenly when baked.  I love the results this way.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Meaty and saucy"

Tyler: "Good and very filling"

Zachary: "Cheesy and yummy"

Dave: "Flavors are rich and hearty"

Andrea (me): "I am so happy that Dave suggested that I make lasagna this weekend.  It was well worth the extra steps!" I can't wait for leftovers because it's even better the next day.







Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ooey - Gooey Goodness!

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese


Today's weather in Ellicottville, NY: 18 degrees, sun is shining and there is a light snowfall. Perfect conditions for a long hard day of skiing. I used to think I was a good skier, well that was until my sons decided to take up the sport. They have been skiing since they were 4 years old and they have become some of the most talented skiers I know. They also ski with no fear and will ski any double black diamond or terain park that comes their way. Of course that makes me a nuerotic nervous wreck....if I could only send them out wrapped in quadruple layered bubble wrap! Humm, I may just have to contact Burton with my idea! The weather conditions were not only great for skiing but they were also great for making a crockpot full of hot "Lobster Macaroni and Cheese." With the temperatures hovering at 18 degrees, nothing warmed our stomachs more than this comfort dish. It was layered with three cheeses (sharp cheddar, gruyere, cream cheese) which helped make this dish oh so ooey gooey good! I decided to add the lobster because a) it's packed with protein b) it's divinely delicious and c) I just love impressing the food gawkers at the lodge! Trust me, I had some heads turn once they saw me plating this rich and creamy mac n cheese.  I enjoy making this recipe because it's a special treat for a weeknight meal but it's also fancy enough to serve your friends at a dinner party. This recipe is very easy to make and cooks quickly, only two hours in the crockpot.  I used a frozen cooked lobster rather than using fresh lobster, it saved on time and trust me it was just as delicious. So if you are in the mood to indulge yourself or your family this is the dish to make.  So salute to "ooey gooey lobster mac n cheese!"

Ooey Gooey Goodness!

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese (Click to print recipe)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 lb of macaroni (I used cavatappi)
1/2 -1 pound cooked lobster (I used 1/2 lb all natural frozen lobster by Cozy Harbor)
3 cups of cheddar cheese shredded
1 cup gruyere cheese shredded
4 oz cream cheese
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 can condensed cheddar soup
3 cups milk
4 tb butter sliced into small pieces
1 t mustard powder
salt n pepper

In a large pot boil macaroni in until al dente.  Err on the side of more al dente. Strain pasta and put back in pot and add all of the ingredients and stir well. Spray crockpot with cooking spray and add cheesy macaroni mixture.  Cook on low for 2 hours.  Then add lobster and if necessary add more milk and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I didn't get enough lobster." (He's probably right if I was serving this dish for dinner, but it was lunch, so I was like seriously Nate, who are you Prince William?) 

Zachary: "I didn't get enough lobster" (seriously!!!!)

Tyler: "I didn't get enough lobster either." (OMG seriously you too!)

Dave: "Delicious mac n cheese.  Probably one of the best you've made because the macaroni is perfectly cooked, it has a good balance of cheese and the lobster is a great addition." (On his second helping he asked me to plate him more lobster because I didn't give him enough!!!!)

Andrea (me): "I am using 1 lb of lobster next time."



Nate posing with the lobster mac n cheese!



Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Slice of Heaven

Andouille Sausage, Banana Pepper, Kalamata Olive, Mozzarella and Shaved Parm Pizza


"A slice of heaven" said a wise young boy named Zachary Siwiec after taking a bite of his pizza! That bite just happened to be from the homemade pizza I made tonight! Nothing made this italian mamma more proud after hearing that comment. Pizza is one of my family's all time favorite foods.  If given the choice we would eat pizza every night of the week. My gosh, who wouldn't? Pizza is sooo heavenly. Dr. Oz may not agree but I would even go so far as to say that pizza is a "superfood." Why? Because there are endless possibilities when it comes to making pizza and choosing toppings. Pizza can be topped with just about anything and become a different and unique meal each time.  Anything goes...add chicken, shrimp, sausage, steak, goat cheese, ricotta cheese, fontina cheese, gorgonzola cheese, peppers, olives, anchovies, artichokes, spinach or arugula. Heck, if you add some nuts, berries and eggs you'd surely make Dr. Oz happy!

I also love making pizza as much as I love eating it. Making pizza is like having a party because everyone wants to be involved. My boys, including Dave, get so excited about choosing their own toppings and creating their own masterpiece. Tonight we made 2 delicious pizzas that satisfied all of our appetites. The first pizza was "Andouille Sausage with Banana Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Mozzarella and shaved Parm Cheese" and the second pizza was "Mushroom, Mozzarella and shaved Parm Cheese." Both tasted sooo heavenly!  Salute to making your slice of heaven!

Mushroom, Mozzarella and Shaved Parm Pizza


  • Many local pizzerias will sell balls of their dough for a nominal charge.

Ingredients for andouille sausage pizza:

1 ball of your favorite pizza dough    
1 jar of tomato sauce
1 cup sliced andouille sausage
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup jarred banana pepper rings (I used mild)
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
shaved parm cheese
olive oil
salt n pepper

Ingredients for mushroom pizza:

1 ball of pizza dough
1 jar of tomato sauce
4 oz of sliced mushrooms (I used canned)
2 cups mozzarella cheese
parm cheese
1 tb fresh basil chopped
olive oil
salt n pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle corn meal on 2 baking sheet, either round or rectangular and spread the dough out evenly on the pans.  Bake dough in oven for 10 minutes.  **I pre-bake my dough so all of the ingredients ook evenly. Take the dough out of the oven and add the sauce and then the mozzarella cheese.  Then add other ingredients.  Add salt n pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Bake for 15 minutes until toppings and cheese are golden.  Take pizza out and let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Food Impressions: 

Zachary:  "This tastes like a slice of heaven."  (The inspiration for my post title)

Tyler:  "Thick and spicy."

Nate: "Super duper yummy"

Dave: "The andouille pizza is like taking a mediterranean cruise...every bite reminds me of flavors from Greece, Spain and Italy."  "Best pizza you've made." (He was so complimentary I began to wonder what he did wrong!) 

Andrea (me): Both pizzas were delicious but I especially liked the andouille sausage pizza. It was mildly spicy and the banana peppers added a punch of flavor. 



                                                                 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

22 minutes and 31 second Meal!

It's only Wednesday but I feel like it's Friday! This week has been incredibly busy for our family. I know, who isn't, right? Between sports games, practices, music lessons, homework, school and work, I always feel like we are being pulled in a million different directions. It's all good but very exhausting. In hectic times like this it's easy for family dinners to be a quick drive thru to Mickey D's. And not to get all psychobabble but studies show that families who eat together stay together. It's true and I firmly believe that families who spend quality dinner time together are more connected.  No matter how busy we are we make family dinner time a priority in our household. It's not easy though so planning and forethought are essential. Tonight, Tyler and Zachary had a basketball game which ended at 6:00 pm. It would have been easy to just pick up a pizza but I knew I could whip up a homemade meal just as quickly and it would be way healthier. I'm usually not a fan of cooking "30 minute meals", no offense Rachael Ray, but when you are short on time quick meals are ideal. Tonight I made "Panko Crusted Chicken Cutlets with an Asparagus and Feta Salad." It only took me, and I timed it, 22 minutes and 31 seconds to cook and that included prep. Impressive right, especially considering the dish tasted amazing! So during those incredibly hectic days, carve out 22 minutes to make this tasty dinner for your family and they will thank you for it. Salute to "Families eating together even during the busiest times!"

Asparagus and Feta Salad with Panko Crusted Chicken

Serves 4

4 chicken cutlets - thinly cut
1 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
1 egg - whisked
1/4 cup olive oil
4 oz mesclun greens
1/2 lb asparagus cut in inch pieces
4 oz cherry tomatoes halved
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 avocado diced
1 lemon
1/4 of a small onion sliced very thinly
1 t minced garlic
salt n pepper

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tb of olive oil on medium heat.  Dip cutlets in whisked egg then coat with panko bread crumbs, salt n pepper and cook in saute pan for 5-7 minutes and turn over and cook other side for another 5 minutes until browned, then squeeze lemon juice over cutlets. Meanwhile, while chicken is cooking heat 1 tb olive oil in a small saute pan and cook asparagus over medium heat for 10 minutes until tender.  Set aside and cool. In a large salad bowl add mesclun, red onion, tomatoes, feta, avocado, asparagus and minced garlic. Drizzle olive oil over salad to coat, then add 1/2 lemon juice and salt n pepper.  Mix well until evenly coated.  Plate salad and then place cutlets on top. To round out this dish I served ciabatta bread on the side.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Good but too lemony for me."

Tyler: "Chicken-lemonicious" (Ok, enough with the "icious" at the end of every food impression!)

Zachary: "Super tasty and I loved the chicken."  (I'm not even kidding this child went back for thirds on chicken)

Dave: "The chicken and the salad have a great balance of flavors."

Andrea (me): I actually found myself saying "wow, this is really good" several times throughout our meal.  It was really good and the balance of flavors where spot on.  I loved the fresh lemon on the cutlets and in the salad, in every bite there was a burst of it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fresh Farmhouse Eggs...taste the difference!


I mentioned in an earlier post that every Friday before we arrive at our farmhouse we stop at Pumpkinville to buy farm eggs. Pumkinville is a 200 acre farm and it is the oldest original pumpkin farm in New York State. They have this cute shed called The Little Red Shop where they sell homegrown brown eggs and ground beef, as well as homemade baked goods. You pay for your goods based on an honor system so they have a cash box where you just leave your money. Pumpkinville is at the corner of our road so making regular trips to get their eggs is a breeze. We rarely buy eggs from a grocery store anymore because there is such a huge difference in taste. The taste of farm eggs is so much better because of it's freshness.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


Nope, I'm not writing a review about the movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." I'm writing about meatballs and lots of them - 4 pounds to be exact! Every weekend in the winter months our family skies at Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, NY. Skiing is one of our favorite winter sports because it's something we can all do together.  Dave always says that my favorite part of skiing is having lunch at the lodge - and he's absolutely right!  I always bring a hot meal to the lodge and I take this task very seriously. Trust me, I'm not the only one who takes it seriously. Meal time at the lodge is a fierce sport in itself...you should see what people bring...tableclothes, candelabras, bottles of wine, Longaberger picnic baskets and crockpots filled with comfort food goodness. I'm constantly checking out other people's food spread and I know they are checking out mine, so I always make sure my spread is scrumptious!  If you are a ski family ya know what I'm talking about! So this past weekend I made one of our staple ski lodge crockpot meals "Meatball Parmesan." I love making this recipe because of it's savoriness and simplicity. Everyone thinks it's difficult to make homemade meatballs but it's actually quite easy. I always make a double batch and freeze the rest. They freeze well and can be used in a variety of dishes. So give it a try and impress your family. Heck, give it a try and take it to the ski lodge or wherever and impress everyone! So salute to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!"

Meatball Parmesan Subs


For Meatballs:

4 lbs of ground beef (85%)
2 eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 t basil
1 t oregano
1 t parsley
1 tb minced garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt n pepper

2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

sub/hoagie rolls

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, gently mix all ingredients (except sauce and mozzarella) with hands until well blended. Loosely form meatballs into the size of a golf ball, they will decrease in size after baking. Four pounds of ground beef will yield approximately 50 meatballs.  Place meat on a baking pan with foil down for easy cleanup. No need for any cooking spray as fat from meat won't allow it to stick. Bake for 15 minutes.  Let sit for 10 minutes. 

Place one jar of sauce in a crockpot and add half of the meatballs in sauce.  Add 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, then add the rest of the meatballs and the other jar of sauce.  Cook on low for 2 hours.  Just before serving top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese until melted.  Serve on sub rolls or just by themselves. 

* This recipe can also be made with using your favorite high quality frozen meatballs. In a pinch I will use Wegmans Romano Meatballs.  

Food Impressions: (there were 10 of us)

Nate: "These meatballs are legendary!" 

Tyler: "This meatball sub is so huge I need a fork and knife to eat it."

Zachary: "Mom, don't forget to add extra cheese on mine." (He's my cheese lover)

Chris and Stephanie (our good friends):  They had eaten lunch earlier so they only wanted to split a sub.  When they finished they were helping themselves to more!  Stephanie's classic comment was "I gotta get myself some of those fatballs!" And the next day she did! 

Andrea (me): This is one of those simple foods that people keep coming back for more.  Almost everyone had seconds - I got the impression they loved em'!






Sunday, January 12, 2014

Catching up with Friends

We love spending time with our friends and only wish we could get together with them more often. Last night we had our friends Mark & Terri and Brian & Crystal over for dinner. They have ski cabins next door to us in Ellicottville; they live in Toronto. We hadn't seen them in a while, so getting caught up over dinner and drinks made for an incredible evening. From the moment everyone arrived until the moment they left, we laughed and boy did we laugh! Conversations ranged from cars in ditches to undone belt buckles, from porcupines to cow carcasses, from an unforeseen - let's call it -"spill" on an antique rug to trying new things in Mexico, oh and let's not forget "Andrea has a blog!!!" I know, ya had to be there to get the humor but those were just some of the stories shared that made us laugh until we cried! I was pretty confident that even if my halibut dinner turned out awful, it didn't matter because everyone was just having a good ole time!

Our evening began with big pours of wine and whiskey which was paired with an elaborate cheese platter brought by Mark & Terri.  They never fail us with the cheese, always selecting the finest. For dinner I served "Baked Halibut over Sautéed Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives and Red Onions.  Goat Cheese Israeli Couscous was served on the side, along with crusty bread."  Brian & Crystal brought a delicious side, "sautéed shrimp with red pepper and garlic" which was a perfect compliment to my dish.  Dessert was simple, sponge candy made from a local chocolatier named Watson's.

I chose to cook this dinner because I've been making it for years, it's full of flavor, it's healthy and it's sooo easy to make. When I entertain, I cook meals that don't require me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, away from my guests.  Within 30 minutes the meal was prepped, cooked and served. Salute to good food, good friends and good laughs!

Baked Halibut over Sauteed Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives & Red Onion with a side of Goat Cheese Israeli Couscous




Serves 6

For Halibut: 

6 4 oz halibut
1 lb of cherry tomatoes
12 oz fresh baby spinach
4 oz kalamata olives sliced in half
1 small red onion sliced
olive oil
3 tb minced garlic
1 lemon 
salt n pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place halibut in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil mixture (mix 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/2 t lemon zest and salt n pepper, set aside. Place tomatoes, olives, onion and a half of squeezed lemon with 1/4 cup of olive oil,  1 tb garlic, salt n pepper on a baking pan and mix. Bake/roast tomato mixture in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and tomatoes have bursted open. In meantime, heat olive oil and 2 tb garlic in a large saute pan.  Add spinach and 1/2 squeezed lemon juice until wilted. When tomato mixture is done add it to the wilted spinach and mix.  Set aside covered. Now bake halibut for 10 minutes. when done place halibut over sautéed spinach and tomato mixture.

For couscous:

8 oz Israeli cous cous
3 cups of chicken stock
2 oz goat cheese

Over medium to high heat bring 3 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a pan.  Add couscous and stir, turn to low heat and cover for 15 minutes, add goat cheese salt n pepper and stir.  Add a little water if needed.

Food Impressions:

Terri: "Oh my gosh Andrea, this is sooo good. You made this amazing dish look so effortless." ( I knew Terri really liked the dish when she used her bread to soak up every last morsel!) 

Mark: "This is fantastic, everything you make is always out of this world." 

Crystal:  "Delicious! What is this type of couscous is this? How did you make this spinach? What did you put on the halibut?"  "Im not a fan of kalamata olives but I get why they were used in this dish." (I knew Crystal liked it based on how many questions she asked about how I made the dish. So I told her she could find the recipe on my new blog!)

Brian: Unfortunately, only after a few bites he had to leave to take care of "a spill" on the rug next door.  By the time he returned his food was cold, I offered to reheat his plate but he said "oh no, not necessary, this is even delicious cold."

Dave: (He was so busy talking that I don't think he commented on what he thought of the dish!)

Andrea (me): Everyone was very complimentary about my dish and my cooking in general (I am a big sucker for cooking compliments so I was like "go on friends - no need to stop - keep telling me more!) Honestly, for me, there is no better compliment than making a lasting food impression on friends and family, and this was certainly accomplished tonight!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Aaaaaah.......it's Friday!

Every weekend in the winter months we head out to our 100 year old farmhouse in Ellicottville, New York. We bought the house 4 years ago and ever since it has truly become our Shangri La.  It takes us exactly an hour and a half to get there door to door.  We have a strict routine of getting there and we rarely stray from it unless there is significant reason.  Why you ask?  Because we CANNOT wait to get there.... it's like going on a mini vacay every weekend AND it's quality time for me to cook and experiment with new recipes!

If you care, here's a glimpse of our routine that rarely changes:

3:00 - boys get home from school, do their homework, change into comfortable clothes and gather their trinkets to take with them. It's usually their stuffed animals and blankets, like Baby Bear, Woof Woof and Moo Moo. Those stuffed animals are like my other children!  Nate doesn't bring his blanket and Moo Moo with him so much anymore, it actually makes me sad.
4:00 - I pack my now new "Scout" bag (gosh I love that bag) with groceries for the weekend. I shop ahead of time so I don't waste precious time while I'm in EVL (Ellicottville).
4:30 - Dave comes home, I get very upset even if he comes home 1 minute late! He packs the car and turns on a DVD for the boys and we're off.
5:15 - Arrive in EVL, stop at Tops to pick up local newspapers and milk. There is a sign as you enter EVL Village that says "What's the rush, you're here now." Awesome and so true!
5:30 - Stop at Dom's Butcher Shop to pick up his epic bacon.
5:45 - Stop at Pumpkinville to pick up fresh brown farm eggs.
5:50 - Finally, arrive at the house, greet Bruce (our weekend dog) with treats and unpack.
6:00 - Aaaaah.....now our weekend officially begins!!! I start dinner (tonight is pasta e fagioli and hot stuffed peppers), Dave turns on jazz music then pours us a glass of wine while the boys - hopefully getting along - play board games or with Legos.

So that's our OCD (obsessive/compulsive) routine. What can I say, we are creatures of habit! Okay, now on to cooking.  I try to cook something on Fridays that's quick and simple but delicious.  So tonight I am making "Pasta e Fagioli" and "Stuffed Hot Peppers." I haven't made this soup in a while and I chose it because it's a stick to your ribs kind of soup. I am making the stuffed hot peppers because my family goes crazy for them and would eat them everyday if they could. We also had crusty italian bread from DiCamillo's Bakery to soak up the soup and to cool our mouths from the hot peppers.  For dessert monster sized cannoli's also from DiCamillo's Bakery.  Salute to aaaaah it's Friday!

Pasta e Fagioli


2 tb olive oil
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced pancetta
2 cans of cannellini beans
8 cups od chicken stock
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 lb of small pasta
1 t parsley
1 t oregano
1 t basil
2 tb minced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
grated parmesan cheese
small parmesan cheese rind
salt n pepper

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium heat, add pancetta and cook for 2 minutes, add onion, carrots and celery until soft.  Add garlic, red pepper, herbs and salt n pepper.  Add beans, diced tomatoes with juices, and chicken stock. Stir on medium - high heat and bring to a boil. Add cheese rind and simmer and for  20 minutes.  Add pasta and stir until pasta is cooked through.  Plate in bowls and add freshly grated parm cheese.

Stuffed Hot Peppers


6 hot peppers
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz gorgonzola
1 t minced garlic
salt n pepper
1/8 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash and seed peppers. With a spoon or fork mix cream cheese, gorgonzola, garlic and salt n pepper until smooth.  Stuff peppers and place on a baking dish with olive oil.  Drizzle olive oil the top and add salt n pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and tender.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with marinara sauce or with a crusty bread.

Food Impressions:

Nate:  Hearty enough for a pirate...aaarg!

Tyler:  Yummy Mom, is there bacon in here? (no, it's pancetta Tyler) Wow, it's delicious and two thumbs up!  Hey, save some of those peppers for me.

Zachary: Deliciousioso! yes with an "ioso" at the end.

Dave:  Savory but could use more garlic.  (What do you mean more garlic I say with a snarly look. I couldn't help being defensive about his comment of needing more garlic)

Andrea:  Savory but could use more garlic.  (You love it when you are right Dave!!!)