Olive Tapenade

Carbs… carbs are one of my biggest weaknesses. Especially little crostini’s… you can literally put anything on them & they will be delicious. Toast them, don’t, either way… yum!

Girl time is special to me. My closest girlfriends, are, ironically, 3000 miles away from me at any given time. Living across the country from the people you love most, really makes you appreciate the time you have with them. My sister was able to sneak away from her job as a labor & delivery nurse in Connecticut for a few days to come out & visit with us. Spending time with her is always so much fun. Isn’t it funny how the person you grow up arguing & fighting with ends up being your best friend as you get older?

IMG_1231

 

Anyway, one of our favorite things to do is a little wine tasting. She loves going in Connecticut but the green hills of New England are definitely a totally different view than what we have in the desserts of Southern California. Especially after three years of little to no rain. Our golden hills are definitely a sight you don’t see in Connecticut’s vineyards.

New England wineries generally create some form of blends of local grapes &, from what I understand from many of the wineries I’ve been to, grapes that have been shipped in from warmer climates like here in California.

Big, indoor, cottage like décor is what you usually can find on the east coast rather than the outdoor, Mediterranean feel you get out here at a vineyard.

It is definitely a different wine here on the west coast compared to cold New England.

IMG_1230

What’s nice about going wine tasting with girlfriends is they enjoy the same snacks that I do, & everything Chris doesn’t like.

Usually when I go wine tasting Chris and our friend Patrick come, and they like…. Well pizza. And that’s it. My idea of a fun wine tasting day is veggie spreads, Italian meats & an amazing cheese to go with the wine. (Not a greasy slice of pepperoni.) This is an appetizer that I just recently discovered how to do on my own, and honestly, it’s way better than what you can get out of a jar.

Try it out… and enjoy!

SignatureIMG_1229 

3/4 cup black olives
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1.2 cup chopped parsley

1. Chop olives in food processor. Set aside.
2. Mince garlic and add cheese, butter, and oil. Process into a paste mixture.
3. In a large bowl mix olives with the paste mixture and fold in chopped parsley.
4. Place mixture on crostini and toast under broiler for 2-5 minutes at 375˚.

Meatball Sub

This past week or so I have been getting a huge urge to wanderlust. Literally my favorite thing is to see the world & experience this planet & all the cultures to their fullest. This past year we went to Portland & it was long overdue & absolutely amazing. Now all I can think of doing is traveling, seeing new things & tasting new flavors.

We are planning on taking a little road trip in March for Spring Training in Arizona. Now I know, it’s not the Yankees, which I can’t wait to go to see in the Grapefruit League one day, but Scottsdale is a little easier to get to then Tampa is. We are hoping to hop on the 10 Freeway here in Orange County & just head west until we see a sign. I can’t wait & already want to plan all of our food stops. What are some great places to eat in the Scottsdale area? What are some fun hikes?

Before we head to Scottsdale though, we are planning a very belated trip to Connecticut. This has been the longest since I have been home since I moved to the west coast. Chris & I haven’t been to the east coast since my cousin got married last August. Before I was coming home every 8-10 months but now it will be almost a year & a half & my heart breaks when I think about it.

I miss my friends, my family, the food, & even the weather. Okay, I only miss the weather sometimes.

I am definitely hoping the winter weather holds up while we are there so Chris & I can explore a little. One place I have never been that I definitely want to discover is Arthur Ave in the Bronx. I know I know, an Italian that hasn’t been to Arthur Ave!! It’s terrible. My parents will take day trips with their friends or my aunts & uncles to pick up meats & cheeses but I haven’t even been able to hop onto any of those day trips. This January I definitely plan on making my own trip though.

To get myself in the mood I made my own meatball sub. I love anything in the form of a sandwich but the rolls & breads out here just aren’t the same. So to make due I over compensate on the meats & toppings to cover up the lack of flavor in the bread. For my meatball sub I like to use Trader Joe’s Half Baked Rolls. If you’re back eat, grab a Portuguese roll & try it out. However you have it, enjoy!

Signature

IMG_0490

1 lb ground beef
1 roll or 2 slice of left over bread
1 egg
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
18 cup bread crumbs
6 half-baked rolls
1 cup mozzarella cheese

1. Empty ground beef into large mixing bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 400⁰.
2. Place bread under low running sink to moisten bread. Allow bread to become lightly wet and remove any crust.
3. Work into meat with your hands kneading out any clumps of bread. Make sure the bread and meat are blended to the same consistency.
4. Add egg, mix with hands until fulling mixed together.
5. Add salt, pepper garlic powder, parsley. Knead together with hands.
6. Add bread crumbs as needed.
7. Roll into 1 inch balls. If meat sticks to your hands, add in more bread crumbs in small amounts.
8. Bake meatballs 20-25 minutes.
9. Mix in with tomato sauce.
10. Build sandwich. Cut 1 meatball in half and place on open roll. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for 5 minutes.

 

 

Twice Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

One of my favorite smells is my mom frying at her stove. I could be in my room with the door shut as a teenager and whether it was chicken cutlets, or eggplant, I could sniff that out from a mile away. Okay sounds a little crazy, but seriously, it is one of my favorite smells from when I was growing up.

I would run out to the kitchen to see what she was whipping up. Usually when she fries things she has the lights off and the fan and windows open, no matter what time of year it is in cold Connecticut. She is not a fan of a grease filled kitchen. I would grab a bite of whatever she had sitting on a plate covered in paper towels and she would whack my hand and tell me not to eat it all or to get a glass of water to suppress my appetite before dinner.
IMG_1218
Ooh good ol’ mom.

Me on the other hand, I have tried numerous times to recreate her fried creations. I’ve cut the eggplant thing, I’ve cut it thick. I breaded the chicken in different ways, I left the chicken with little to no breading. Nothing ever is the same. So instead of trying to recreate the recipe for you guys and it just not be right… I went in a newer, healthier direction.

I ditched the oils, ditched the frying pan. Basically I ditched everything but the eggplant in my Twice Baked Eggplant Parmigiana. I found the idea on Pinterest, of course, but used my mom’s ingredients for her eggplant parm. In the past year she has become obsessed with panko bread crumbs so of course to add a little extra crunch I used them, but back when I was a teenager Italian bread crumbs would suffice.

Try it out, enjoy the eggplant parm, sans oil and let me know what you think.

Signature

IMG_1225

1 medium sized eggplant
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Dried oregano
2 eggs
¼ lb mozzarella cheese
28 oz tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease cookie sheet. While preheating slice eggplant into 1/8 inch slices.
2. Beat eggs in bowl adding a splash of water for consistency and pour panko and dried oregano onto separate plate to keep nearby.
3. Dip each slice of eggplant onto egg mixture and immediately into the panko crumbs. Flip to coat the eggplant on both sides as well as around the edges. Place directly onto the cookie sheet. Be careful to not move eggplant around the cookie sheet as the panko will fall off.
4. Continue assembly line until all eggplant is coated and placed on the cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes flipping once in the middle.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool until you are able to touch the eggplant. Do not turn off oven.
7. Layer the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan with tomato sauce. Place on top a layer of eggplant followed by a light layer of cheese. (Cheese will melt so allow space between chunks of mozzarella.)
8. Continue until all eggplant is in the baking pan. Top with a layer of shredded mozzarella and sprinkle parmigiana cheese on top.
9. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted throughout.
10. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving for the cheeses to settle.

IMG_1227