Friday, May 20, 2016

Tomato, Apricot & Ricotta Flatbread

Here’s another recipe from my latest Cooking Light magazine (two in a week!) I thought peaches were in season but for some reason Publix didn’t have any, so I substituted apricots instead. 

You could grill your flatbread, but since it was pouring rain the other night when we made this, we just baked ours in the oven.  It was ready in less than 15 minutes.

Tomato, Apricot & Ricotta Flatbread: (adapted from Cooking Light)
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 T finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ t black pepper
  • 1 package naan breads (like Stone Fire)
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced (we also had a baby tomato from our garden we threw in since it was ripe)
  • 1 apricot, pitted and sliced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 t sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle 1T olive oil over the naan and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes.  

2. Combine the ricotta with the other 1T olive oil, 1T green onions, oregano, and pepper. 

3. Remove naan from the oven and spread ricotta mixture evenly over.  Top with tomato and peach slices, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

4.  Put back in oven for 5-10 more minutes or until the flatbread gets to your desired crispness. 

5. Sprinkle with remaining 1T green onions, bail, and salt.  Enjoy!  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Slow-Cooker Beef Lettuce Wraps

Two nights in a row of new recipes!  I love anything Asian-inspired.  I get a few cooking magazines in the mail (Everyday with Rachael Ray, Cooking Light, Southern Living).  Honestly, I don’t end up cooking the recipes as much as I’d like – most of my meal ideas come from Pinterest.  But I like getting something in snail-mail besides bills and junk. 

My June copy of Cooking Light had this recipe for beef lettuce wraps with pickled vegetables.  It only had cucumbers and carrots, but I added some red bell peppers, green onions, and mushrooms to make it extra veggie-filled. 

My favorite lettuce wraps are the ones at the Cheesecake Factory.  I rarely eat there anymore since I prefer trying out non-chain restaurants, but every time I go, that’s my dish.  Somehow it’s considered an appetizer but it’s big enough for two people to split it as a meal (that restaurant definitely doesn’t understand portion sizes…)

The beef wraps that we made were so filling that I actually could only eat two. Even though the beef cooks in juices, next time I may throw together a separate dipping sauce since I love the ones from the Cheesecake Factory version (maybe a peanut sauce could be nice?)

Lance actually used the leftovers from this dish to make a really tasty quiche a few days later. 

Slow-Cooker Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps: (adapted from Cooking Light)
  • Cooking spray (we always use coconut oil spray)
  • 1 large onion, cut into ½” slices
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1-1/2 t olive oil
  • 1 2-lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed
  • ½ cup unsalted beef stock
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 11 T rice vinegar, divided
  • 2 T dark sesame oil, divided
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T unsalted tomato paste
  • 1 T white miso/soybean paste (I omitted this since it wasn’t an ingredient I’d normally use…)
  • ¾ t crushed red pepper
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • ¾ cup julienne-cut carrots
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • ¾ t sale
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 t toasted sesame seeds

1. Coat the bottom and sides of your slow cooker with spray.  Line with onions and garlic. 

2. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the roast to the pan, cooking about 3 minutes and turning to brown all sides.  Place the beef on top of the onions and garlic and pour the drippings from the pan on top.

3. Combine the stock, soy sauce, 3 T of the vinegar, 1 T sesame oil, brown sugar, tomato paste, and red pepper in a medium bowl and whisk together.  Pour over the beef, cover the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

4. Place the cucumber, carrots, and red pepper in a shallow bowl 15 minutes before the meat is done.  Combine the remaining ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 cup water, and granulated sugar in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and pour over the vegetables.  Let stand until ready to serve, then drain well. 

5. Move the beef from the slow cooker to a large platter and shred with 2 forks.   

6. Heat the remaining 1 T sesame oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shredded beef and onions, pressing into an even layer.  Cook 2-3 minutes without stirring. Turn off and sprinkle with salt and ½ c liquid from the crock pot (discard the rest of the liquid). 

7. Serve the beef with the pickled vegetables, green onions, and mushrooms.  Top with sesame seeds. 

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach & Bacon Chicken

With all the wedding planning I’d been slacking on making us home-cooked meals (Lance actually did more of the cooking this past year than I did since I was always so busy…) Well, this week I’ve tried making up for it – I’ll post a couple really great recipes we tried out the last few days!

Chicken can sometimes be a boring dinner but this was far from that – loaded with all sorts of exciting toppings.  Plus, I made Caesar salad from scratch which was easier than I thought.  Adding these to my go-to recipes.

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach & Bacon Chicken: (adapted from Julia’s Album)
  • 6 small chicken breasts
  • 1 T butter
  • Italian Dressing powdered mix packet
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 10 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2/3 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded, plus 6 slices
  • 1/8 t salt
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil & chopped into pieces
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

2. Butter the bottom of a baking dish.  Season the chicken breasts on both sides with the Italian seasoning mix.  Place chicken into the baking dish and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.

3. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add spinach and cook for about 2 minutes until it begins to wilt. 

4. Remove from heat and add the garlic & half and half.  Return to the heat, bring to a boil, then add the shredded cheese.  Keep stirring on high heat until the cheese starts to melt.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer & stir until you have thick creamed spinach.  Season with salt and remove from the heat.   

5. Remove the chicken from the oven after baking 15-20 minutes.  Top with creamed spinach, then sun-dried tomatoes, chopped cooked bacon, and broken slices of pepperjack cheese.

6. Bake in the oven uncovered for 15-20 more minutes until the chicken is completely cooked through.

Homemade Caesar Salad:
Dressing Ingredients:
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (the original recipe used mayonnaise and sour cream but this is healthier and I think tastes better)
  • 1-1/2 t anchovy paste
  • 1-1/2 T olive oil
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 t whole grain mustard
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Old loaf of bread
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t salt
  • ¼ t pepper
  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese

1. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients (you can also add whole anchovies if you want)

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice bread into cubes and bake 5 minutes.  While they are baking, mix together olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper.  Take the bread out of the oven, toss in the olive oil mixture, then bake 5 more minutes.  Toss again and continue baking until golden brown and crisp. 

3. Toss the Romaine, croutons, cheese, and drizzle with dressing. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trattoria Pasquale – Tampa, FL

My friend Hillary was super sweet and gave us a gift card to Trattoria Pasquale as an engagement gift (we got engaged over a year ago!)

We finally got the chance to check this place out.  It’s an Italian restaurant and since they don’t have a liquor license, it’s BYOB.  We stopped by Total Wine on the way there and picked up some beers to enjoy with our meal. 

It was pretty nice out this evening so we decided to eat out on the patio.  It seemed a bit loud inside and this gave us our own private dining area since we were the only ones eating outside. 

Our waiters were really welcoming.  They even brought out an ice bucket for the table since to keep our beers cold. 

They have an extensive menu of all sorts of traditional Italian dishes.  I ordered the Tortellini Susanna – beef filled pasta with caramelized onions, tomato cream sauce, and truffle oil.  Lance had the Veal Parmigiana – served with side penne pasta and green beans.

They started off with bread and olive oil with whole roasted garlic cloves.  Each of our meals came with a fresh garden salad. 

Our dinners were both delicious but my pasta was amazing!  The sauce was so flavorful - and it was very filling so I brought enough to make a second meal out of it.  

We decided to splurge and split the tiramisu for dessert since we still had a bit left to spend on our gift card.  It was coated in chocolate sauce - despite being pretty full from dinner, we polished it off in no time. 

I was very impressed with our meal – you wouldn’t think that this unassuming little restaurant in a strip mall had such authentic food.  It is definitely worth checking out! 

Trattoria Pasquale is located at 4334 S Manhattan Ave, Tampa, FL 33611.  They are open Tuesday – Saturday 5pm – 10pm.    

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Station House – St. Petersburg, FL

Since we moved into the house & got married, we really haven’t been eating out as often as before.  We love our new kitchen so we actually end up cooking in more frequently, and we’re trying to be better about saving money. 

But last night we decided to celebrate our first 2 weeks of marriage with a date night out in St. Pete.  We had a CL Deal to Station House that was about to expire so we decided to go there.  I had gone there a few months back during my bachelorette party.  I think it was actually better this time around since most of the food is small plates and meant for sharing, which is easier to do for a date night with 2 instead of 15 people. 

Parking is sometimes difficult on the weekends in St. Pete unless you want to pay at a garage, but we found a spot near the Dali museum and took a walk since it was so nice out last night.  Station House’s location is great – right in the heart of downtown.  

It’s interesting because it’s actually a multi-purpose building.  The restaurant is in the basement but it is much more than just that.  The 2nd level is a social club and used for events.  TeBella and Kahwa have their own mini coffee and tea shops set up in the building.  And their “Mind Body Station” hosts yoga classes on the 2nd floor as well as in their rooftop garden.  It also incorporates a coworking space where creative professionals can set up shop and work rather than bringing their laptop to Starbucks (they can even rent a desk, office suite, or meeting room). 

The restaurant has a speakeasy vibe – we enjoyed live jazz music with our craft cocktails and small plates of food.  Our waitress, Sarah, was super friendly and recommended all the best things on the menu.  She said she’d only been working there a week but you would have never known she was so new.  She said we were her favorite people she served that night.   

I had the Russian Punch which was a tart fruity cocktail with berries & champagne.  Lance’s Suffering Bastard drink was good for him but definitely too strong for me – it was blend of gin and whiskey, luckily over a lot of crushed ice. 

We started with the Cedar Key Clam Dip which is served with their homemade potato chips.  While they weren’t Datz chips, they were pretty tasty and went well with the dish.  Then we had the Cauliflower Taboule which was fresh and felt very healthy. 

The Radicchio Salad was interesting because the bacon lardons were the same texture and color as the radicchio leaves – it was a crunchy mix with pecorino romano cheese, garlic croutons and topped with a soft poached egg that oozed over the whole salad as the dressing. 

My favorite part of the meal was the Dark Lacquered Pork Cap, which we were told is cooked all day in its own fat, so it was super tender.  It was served over a mirliton slaw with roasted peanuts and the meat had a caramelized glaze topped with scallions.  I wish we each had our own plate of it instead of sharing it – I love any dish that is Asian-inspired. 

We finished with one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time.  It was a Dark & Stormy Budino – which is a sweet Italian pudding.  It had layers of thick custard with flavors of rum, butterscotch, and key lime.  We literally licked the little mason jar it was served in clean.     

They didn’t really know what to do with our CL Deal but eventually figured it out – we didn’t mind hanging around awhile though since the atmosphere is so nice.  The price is definitely more than we’d spend on a normal dinner out, but our coupon made it a lot more reasonable. I love that nothing we ordered was a dish I would have made for dinner at home.  All the food was original and creative.   Sure we’ll be back again!  

Station House is located at 260 1st Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.  They are open Monday – Thursday 7am – 1am and Friday – Sunday 7am – 3am.