Ya win some…

A few weeks ago Jay let me know that he had applied for tickets to the Rachael Ray show and that we were selected to be a part of the audience!  If you didn’t already know, I’m a huge RR fan. This was exciting news!!!
So we headed to NYC to see my good bud Rachael.  Everyone advised us to get there  nice and early.  Our ticket time was 12:15 so we arrived at 9:00 and a line had already started forming.  We hopped in line and waited until a RR employee began checking everyone into the show.  When it was our turn to be signed in the man looked at us and said, “Oh, you guys aren’t seeing the show until later!  This show is for 10:00!”  Sweet.  He told us to get coffee and come back, so we did.
We headed back to the studio and saw that another line was forming.  I was kind of nervous but convinced we’d get in.  After freezing our toes off the check in process began again.  People were being handed tickets…we weren’t.  Until finally we were at the front of the line and the rope was literally pulled right in front of us.  The studio was already full and we weren’t a part of it!
Basically, they give out a bunch of tickets and a ton of people show up and it is still first come first serve.  This assures RR that the studio will always be full, and a lot of people will be turned down.
I’m really bad with being disappointed so this was a mega bummer for me.  I was really upset and sad.  BUT we were given VIP tickets where we can go back to the show whenever we like and be guaranteed to get in.
Regardless, I was really bummed.  So Jay suggested we head to Eataly because he knew it would cheer me up.  He joked about seeing Mario Batali, the mastermind behind the Italian market.
Upon walking in…
It was no joke!  I was so excited and Mario was very nice.  I was kind of worried about bothering him while he was meandering around Eataly but I’m glad I took the chance and got a photo with him!
After fulfilling a life dream, we decided to eat at La Pizza, which is obviously the pizza section of Eataly.
They start you off with some nice crusty bread that is all wrapped up in brown paper.
I had a glass of house red wine and Jay had a beer.
I liked that they even put the beer in a wine glass :)
I started off with an antipasto plate.  It was a special that was listed on the board so I don’t remember exactly what was in it.  I think it was beets with pistachio nuts, grilled zucchini, olives and I honestly don’t know what the veggie was in the front.  It was all so earthy tasting and the veggies were soft but still had a little crunch.  A perfect start to my meal!
We shared a pizza that was split into 3 parts: 1 part had ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and prosciutto.  The middle had arugula, prosciutto, and mozzarella.  And the other part was margarita pizza.
Sharing this was a big deal because Jay is pretty picky and we normally just do our own thing when eating.  I was really excited to be able to share!  I always think food is more fun when shared :)
We finished our meal with a delicious dessert!
We may not have gotten to see RR but eating Italian food and seeing Mario was definitely a great consolation prize.  Eat your heart out Rachael Ray!

Oh, risotto.

When I lived in Milan, Italy for a semester, I was studying fashion.  And although I was not fully aware of it, I was studying food too.   I remember strolling down the streets reading every menu I’d walk by and wanting to stop in every fresh market we stumbled upon.
One of the really fun things that I was able to participate in was cooking classes at the school I attended, NABA Nuova Accademia Di Bella Arti,  the New School of Art.  I think the classes took place every Wednesday and we were the first group of students that were able to take these classes.  I can’t tell you how much I looked forward to those lessons.  I should have recognized my love for food right then and there!
The women who taught these classes were very knowledgeable and taught us how to make great things, like risotto.
In this photo we were actually just about to make risotto. And every now and then they let us do some chopping, slicing, mixing.  But what we loved best?  Eating!
If you have never had risotto, it takes a lot of time, patience and love.   The rice needs to slowly cook to become creamy and break down.
And every now and then they let us do some chopping, slicing, mixing.  But what we loved best?  Eating!
So the other week I’m flipping through a Rachael Ray magazine when I see a recipe for risotto and realize that I’ve never made risotto since I’ve gained my awesome risotto skills!  And it isn’t like I’ve just returned folks,  this was 3 years ago.
What does a girl do?  Make some of course!
Lemon-Artichoke Risotto (recipe compliments of Rach herself)

You will need:
•2 cups chicken broth
•4 TBS butter
•1 onion
•2 cups arborio rice
• 1 1/4 cups drained artichoke hearts
•Grated peel of 1 lemon, 2  tsp lemon juice
•2/3 cup parmesan cheese (or a handful)
•A shake of parsley
•1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1.) Begin by melting 2 TBS butter in a saucepan and add onion until they are softened.

2.) Meanwhile, bring the water and chicken broth to a boil.  I chose to use bullion cubes instead of chicken broth because that was what I had on hand.  If you decide to also do this, just use 1 cube per cup of water.  So I used 2 cubes with 2 cups of water and 4 additional cups of water.

3.) Once onions are softened, add rice and stir until rice is toasted.

Can I pause for a minute to tell you how much I love that arborio rice comes packed tight like this?  I know, it sounds weird but I love how it’s hard as a rock and then you cut into the bag and the rice becomes all loose and ready to cook!

Nice and toasty :)
4.) Now here comes the slightly tricky part.  Risotto is all about patience and allowing the rice to break down and become creamy.  Add 1 cup of the broth mixture and bring to a simmer while constantly stirring and liquid is absorbed.  Keep the risotto simmering low and continue to add a small amount of liquid at a time until it absorbs.  You will know when to add more as the liquid absorbs.  Don’t stop stirring!

5.) Towards the end of the cooking, add artichoke, lemon peel, lemon juice, walnuts and remaining butter.

Oh glorious, creamy risotto.
Now plate your risotto to make it extra yummy.
On a plate that says yum.
Was it made by Italian women in an Italian kitchen in Italy good? Well, no.  But it was made by an Italian girl with a lot of love and patience and that’s good enough for me :)
I would also like to suggest you check out two bloggers and friends that I know outside of the blogosphere :)
Laura of Sugar Shock! and Krissy of Dainty Chef.

How to cook in a tiny kitchen.

To say that the kitchen in Jay’s apartment is small would be an understatement.  It is teeny tiny.  And if you thought that would stop us from trying to cook in it, you’d be wrong.
We do try to stick to simple things and what simpler than pizza?!  Jay had a great idea to make naan pizza and I agreed.
To give you an idea of what we were working with…this is the only counter space available and we sure did load it up with great ingredients.
While Jay started prepping the naan I was slicing up some peppas.
We spread a little olive oil on the naan for some flavor.
Some mozzarella cheese.
Followed by cheddar cheese.
And some grilled chicken.
Jay accidentally began spreading the cheese on my pizza so I had to spread the sauce on top.  Kinda like boardwalk pizza I suppose.
I added some grilled chicken and peppers on mine.
I also made some green beans for some color and nutrition.
And the results…
Not only did we create a delicious meal but we also had fun doing it!  Who says you can’t cook in small spaces?

A heart as red as marinara.

So what did everyone do for Valentine’s Day?  If you braved the restaurant crowds I hope you had some  patience.  Jay and I celebrated early but we still had a great time!
On Friday, we dined at Dante & Luigi’s, which is said to be the oldest restaurant in Philadelphia!  We had been there once before for my graduation and our experience was better than the first time.
The restaurant is very old Italian and you feel like you’re sitting in your Grandma’s kitchen.  You  might as well be, because the food is that good.
We started off with a few drinks.  I had a glass of the house Pinot Noir and Jay had a Peroni.
We were also given some excellent crusty Italian bread that I dipped in olive oil.
It’s pretty rare for us to get appetizers, let alone share one, but we decided to try an antipasto freddo, a cold appetizer of  imported prosciutto, provolone & Sicilian olives.
I also had a simple house salad and Jay had the ceasar salad.  I was kicking myself after that I didn’t get that tasty salad!
For my entree I chose a dish my sister ordered last time we visited.
Farfalli & Mushrooms: Bow tie pasta with a trio of mushrooms in a basil cream sauce.
This pasta dish is unbelievably delectable.  I rarely order pasta at restaurants but this is something I can’t pass up.  The sauce is so flavorful and the mushrooms just melt into the pasta.  Definitely one of the best Italian dishes I have ever had.
And Jay had chicken parm.
He said that this is now the best chicken he has ever had.
We had to get dessert  to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Any excuse, right ;) And Dante & Luigi’s makes homemade gelato!  How could we pass that up?
We shared some chocolate gelato, which was perfectly creamy and rich.  A perfect way to end our great night!
After dining here for the second time, I can confidently say that Dant e& Luigi’s is not only one of my favorite restaurants, but also some of the best Italian food I’ve had at a restaurant.
As a reminder, vote for my cupcake!  And in case you missed the update on my last post, you can now vote once a day.  I appreciate all your votes and support.  Just click the button below and click the vote button. :)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hello everyone!! I hope you are all having a great Valentine’s Day!  I just wanted to say that I love you all and wish we could all be feasting together because well, that is what foodies do after all.
I entered a POM Wonderful Valentine’s Day cupcake contest and if you could vote for me that would be amazing!
If you just click on the above link it will bring you right to my cupcake.  Just click the VOTE button in the top right corner and you will have voted!  Voting ends February 28th!
UPDATE: If you have voted, the votes were set back to 0 due to a problem with the system!  So you can now re-vote.  Votes can also be made once a day and non-facebook users may also vote :)
Wonderful Sweetheart Cupcakes
Thank you all so much, I appreciate it!
Here are some photos that I took that didn’t make the cut.
Jay and I celebrated on Friday because we both had to work tonight and I made sure to take pictures of our fun night out, which will be my next post!
Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Mexalicious oh so delicious.

As I mentioned in my last post, my craving for Mexican food didn’t disappear after dining out.  Naturally, I decided that a delicious recipe needed to be made!
Mexican Turkey Bake
You will need:
•1 green pepper
•1 small onion
•2 – 3 garlic cloves
•1 pound ground turkey
•1 jar salsa
•1 can tomato paste
•1 can Rotel tomatoes and chilies
•12 corn tortillas
•8 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350º
1.) Begin by chopping the green pepper and onion.
2.) Add pepper, onion and turkey to a cooking pan.  The turkey should brown as the veggies become soft.  Add garlic once turkey is mostly brown.  When the meat is brown and veggies have softened, drain any excess fat.
3.) Add salsa, tomato sauce and Rotel tomatoes and chilies.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
4.) Once the mixture has simmered, spread a thin, even layer on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Place 6 corn tortillas over the sauce, followed by more sauce, half of the cheese, the other 6 corn tortillas, and remaining sauce.
6.) Cover with foil and bake for a half hour.
7.) Uncover, add cheese, and bake for another half hour. Here is a sneak peek at what the bake looked like midway :)
Remove the casserole from oven, let cool, slice and enjoy!
This dish totally satisfied my craving for something Mexalicious.  The tortillas become almost tamale-like and all the flavors just melt together!  And you could do a ton of different things with this recipe depending on you taste such as substitute the turkey for ground beef or tofu, add different veggies, add sour cream, cilantro, fresh salsa…the possibilities are endless!

Buy it, Try it.

I’m pretty sure  that I was supposed to be born in another country.  Or at least another part of the country.  I’m a huge fan of different kinds of food and the selection in South Jersey is just, eh.  If you want good, unique food, you probably have to venture into Philadelphia.
So Jay and I did!  We visited the Mexican Post for tasty Mexican food.

I’m a big fan of any place  that gives you chips and salsa.  I don’t care if it is a Mexican restaurant or not.  So I was a happy camper when I saw this was a part of the deal.
I had a big margarita.  The “you need two hands” kind.
Jay had a Tecate beer.
Which he went on to crush.
After a few sips of a “you need two hands” margarita, you start looking up at the lights and saying, “This is a pretty room.” Full house reference anyone?
I had a side  salad to start with a cilantro dressing.  Oh yes, so good.  I love cilantro anything.  Cilantro dressing on my queso fresco, yes please.
And then I had a big  Mexican feast.
Pork tamales with refried beans and toppings ! The tamales were delicious.  Great moist texture and the flavor was perfect.  My only complaint would be that the pork wasn’t inside the tamales, which is what I think of when talking about traditional tamales.
Jay had a quesadilla that he said was similar to a grilled cheese.  A little bit too much cheese.
We left feeling pretty full so we were thankful to have the chance to walk it off a bit, even if it was freezing cold.  I thought the food was good and it was definitely a better experience than we would have had locally, but I think the award would have to go to the Tortilla Press.
I was left once again dreaming about Mexican food long after we left The Mexican Post ( weeks?) so I had to create something equally as delicious and a lot healthier.  Stay tuned for my Mex-a-licious recipe!