Thursday, March 31, 2011

Drunken Marinara

In honor of this St. Louis holiday ~ Cardinal's Opening Day....DRUNKEN & RED marinara seem appropriate, don't ya think?  Thought so.  ☺

My marinara recipe can be used for so many things.  Use it traditionally with all types of pastas, serve it over grilled chicken, fish or beef, use it as pizza sauce...heck you could probably eat it as a soup.  It is chunky, but you can easily blend it if you would rather have a smooth marinara.  I actually use it both ways.  I blend it to use as a pizza sauce, but I like it chunky over grilled chicken.  My favorite is when it's smothering my meatballs.  I've taken meatballs and drunken marinara in a slow cooker to leftovers!!!  However, if you would happen to have leftover sauce it does freeze well.

So here it is.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.


Any type of beer will work or you can substitute with broth.

2 tsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups green peppers, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 large celery stalk, finely diced
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
28 oz. canned tomatoes, crushed
28 oz. canned tomatoes, diced
1 - 12 oz. beer


In a large 8 qt. stock pot; heat oil to med-high heat.  Saute peppers, onion, carrot, celery and garlic for approximately 8 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add Italian seasoning, brown sugar salt,  pepper, pepper flakes, Worchestershire sauce and vinegar.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and bring to a slow boil.  Simmer uncovered over low heat for approximately 30 - 40 minutes; until desired consistency is reached.

Chunky Drunken Marinara
SERVES: 20 (approximately 1/2 cup per serving)

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pizza Tour

Cook.Eat.Drink.Repeat and a few friends had a fabulous dinner last week at Gyro House. The food was great and the conversation was even better. And I promise there will be pics and a review coming soon, but tonight I want to talk about...PIZZA!

Pizza is probably my favorite food. I tend to joke that I could eat it everyday, but I'm pretty sure if it came down to it I would definitely be able to do that. And if you asked me right now what would I want my last meal to be I would hands down choose the Margherita Pizza from Peel Wood Fired Pizza Eating that pizza is pure bliss to me. It tastes exactly what I have always imagined pizza from Italy tasting like. It's simple. It's delicious. It's my favorite.

My love for this particular Margherita Pizza lead to a discussion about all our favorite pizza places while eating dinner last week. And from there we came up with The Pizza Tour of 2011. And now we need your help... Please leave a comment with your favorite pizza place and what you like to eat there. Or a comment with a pizza place you've been dying to try. And this summer Jessica and I, along with our fabulous volunteers who also love pizza are going to visit as many of these places as we can and come up with our favorites!

Thanks for your help! And if you're willing to eat some pizza with us, let me know!

Much Love!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Happy Happy Happy Birthday to Jessica!!!

I, of course, had to wish her a formal "Happy Birthday" on our blog!

I hope you had a fabulous day and that someone cooked you a great birthday dinner! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

I love Mexican food! Salsa, tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, nachos, etc. From Taco Bell to a small town joint I've never met a Mexican meal that I didn't like.

I'm always creating new recipes at home and I made this one up probably about 5 years ago. I've always made this with full fat ingredients, but this time I decided to use low fat ingredients. And honestly I really couldn't tell the difference. If you feel like living on the wild side when making this then everywhere I say "low fat" or "fat free" you can use regular. And for those of you watching your waistline like me and have found yourselves doing weight watchers each serving is 7 points.

8oz light cream cheese (softened)
8oz low fat sour cream
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
6 medium whole wheat tortillas
1 cup fat free refried beans
2 cups reduced fat Weight Watchers Mexican Cheese
2 Packets Taco Seasoning, with one Tbsp held back (I used Pampered Chef's taco seasoning this time, but I've used the store bought packets in the past.)
Salsa (whichever degree of spiciness you prefer)

Directions: (makes 12 servings)
*Dice up the four chicken breasts while raw into small pieces. Add chicken to skillet on medium heat along with one of the packets of taco seasoning and cook. Once cooked set aside to cool down chicken.

*In mixing bowl mix together: cream cheese, sour cream, refried beans, and taco seasoning. (I use a mixer, but you can mix it by hand if you prefer.) This mixture is absolutely delicious! There is always some extra that I like to use for dipping tortilla chips or veggies in.

*Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. (I know Jessica doesn't like to use the cooking spray, but I use Schnucks brand Canola Oil Cooking Spray.) Spread the "Delicious Mixture" on one side of two tortillas and then put them in the bottom of the pan. Next put a layer of chicken. Then a layer of shredded cheese. Repeat this layering one more time. Then use two more tortillas, the "delicious mixture", and then shredded cheese for the final layer. (I love tomatillo salsa, but my brother isn't a huge fan of really spicy stuff so I just put a small amount of salsa on one of the layers.) Once the final layer is complete, sprinkle the Tbsp of held back taco seasoning on the top.

*Cook for 20-30 mins on 325 until all the cheese on top is melted and slightly brown. (Remember the chicken is already cooked through so all you are really doing is heating the lasagna up.)

*Cut into 12 pieces. Serve with your favorite taco toppings. I use salsa, tomato and lettuce, but be CREATIVE! My dad and brother are very picky so I don't put anything crazy out with this dish. But other ideas would be...diced onions, black olives, jalapeños, etc. (You could also cook these ingredients into the lasagna to add more deliciousness to your layers.)

This is definitely one of my favorite "creations" and I hope you feel the same! And if you do try this recipe, get a little creative and make it your own. And then let me know what taco toppings you used! Ole!

Much Love.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Lonely Onion

This is what happens during a never ending kitchen remodel.

You lose things.

Even onions.

The good news:  you find them again :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

These are a few of my FAVORITE things!!! it's more like 10 of my favorite things.  It's a little long, BUT stick around I think you are going to enjoy it.  You might even find that perfect gift for the perfect someone in your life. :)

Anyone who knows me knows that the wall-o-gadgets at Bed Bath and Beyond is one of my favorite places on earth.  Well, there and the bargain cookbook section of Borders.  I absolutely love them both!  Even if I already had everything on the wall along with all the cookbooks in the wouldn't matter...I would still love to look. *Sigh*

Now, anyone familiar with The Sound of Music knows that a few of Julie Andrew's favorite things include crisp apple strudels and schnitzel with noodles.  Well, whatcha too!!!  Yes, I do love Julie Andrews, apple strudels and noodles very much, but I also have a few other favorite things and I wanted to share them with you.  However, I don't think I'll be writing the lyrics to a song about them anytime soon.  Enjoy!

Here we no particular order!

Mr. Misto & Digital Food Scale
 #1 - Mister Misto Olive Oil Sprayer

I love this product for so many reasons.  First, did you know that aerosol cooking spray has a chemical in it that will ruin your non-stick cookware?  Well, it does.  Second, I said chemical.  Do you like spraying chemicals into your food?  No?  Than get one of these.  For around $10 you can refill with your own oil and keep on using.  These types of products have been known to get clogged and stop working.  I've had mine for well over a  year now and it keeps on keepin' on.  The trick is after you use it just twist the nozzle to release the unused pressure before storing away.  I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond.  The list price was $9.99, but they always have 20% off coupons floating around.  Otherwise, click on the name above to order it from Amazon.

#2 - Digital Food Scale

My food scale is the Weight Watchers Food Scale that I paid WAY to much for - especially when less than a year later they changed the points program and now the whole reason I purchased this particular one is completely useless.  I digress.  I still use this scale (because it's currently the only one I've got) for the weight measurements of food.  My suggestion - just find a decent digital scale.  Something that has a tare button (resets to zero after placing a bowl or something on it) and weighs in grams and ounces is plenty good.  No need to go all fancy.  With smartphones than now scan UPC codes to tell you how many calories are in a serving...who really needs a scale to do that for us, right?  Heck, I won't be surprised when you can lay your IPhone down at some point and it becomes a scale.  Hmm...maybe I should talk to Apple about that?!?!?!

#3 - Progressive Pro - Oil Dispenser with Measuring Tube

I first saw Alton Brown talk about this on his Food Network show, Good Eats.  He always has cool little gadgets and this was something I simply had to have.  Well, I googled and searched everywhere only to find out Progressive Pro had discontinued this item.  I even went as far to email their corporate headquarters to find out 1) if it was true 2) if so, would they ever bring it back and 3) if so, did they have just one extra hanging around the office somewhere????  Well, no luck.  BUT forward to my 2010 Amazon Christmas Shopping Extravaganza and BAM...right in front of my face was this beautiful little device.  A couple clicks and it was mine!!! There are so many fun things you can do with it.  I'm boring...I keep canola oil in mine, but you can make flavored oils by adding fresh rosemary sprigs or whole garlic cloves inside.  You can put homemade dressing inside and easily know how much you are putting onto your salads.  I suppose, it doesn't even have to be used with oil.  Anything liquid should easily dispense from this fun little gadget. :)

A weight watchers dream!

Easy to Read

Perfect Gift for the gadget lover in your life!!!

#4 - Post It Flags

These things are great for marking the pages of recipes in cookbooks that you want to try.  If you are a cookbook lover like me, it can become overwhelming at the amount of new recipes you are wanting to try.  With these tabs it makes it easy to go back to a cookbook later and see the recipes that jumped out at you in the first place.  Also, with the different colors available you could categorize them such as Chicken, Beef, Healthy, Splurges....however you want. Fun, fun, fun!!!

#5 - Cooking Light  - Website, Magazines & Cookbooks

This particular cookbook has became one of my favorites as you can tell by all the Post It Flags.  No matter what you are craving you can find a healthy version with Cooking Light.  Whether you subscribe to their magazine, browse around on their website or have their cookbooks.  Fast, easy, healthy meals are easily found.  A busy, working mom's dream come true.  Thank you Cooking Light!!!

#6 - Tattered Cookbooks

I recently came across a new blog called Tattered Cookbook.  It is a sister blog to another favorite blog of mine Ceramic Canvas.  Anyway, it got me thinking of my two favorite tattered cookbooks of all time.  A few years ago my grandma, Norma, suffered a major stoke and had to go live in a nursing home.  While looking through her belongs before her jerk of a companion auctioned off her house and everything in it, I found a large plastic tote filled with cookbooks and hand written recipes.  (Yes, I'm still a little bitter if you can't tell).  Anyway, other family members would have to fight me for these!  Take the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ( I already have one anyway), take all her cookware, silverware, glassware, whatever....THESE cook books were mine!!!!  After getting home that evening, I sat on the living room floor with that tote like a kid at Christmas, and two cook books jumped out at me.  The first, Better Homes and Gardens FIRST EDITION, ninth printing - circa 1953 and the second, Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book FIRST EDITION, sixth printing - circa 1961

Surprisingly they are still in fairly good condition, a few splatters here and there, a few rips, BUT the pages are brittle, yellowed, and smelly from having to live in almost 50 years of cigarette smoke.  They are probably in such good condition only  because she had meticulously put those little white hole protectors on almost every single page of both cookbooks.  Who does that?  My grandma.  That's who.  She does have some pages marked with old metal paper clips.  They are all so gross and smelly, but that is the beauty of these tattered old cookbooks.  I love them so much!!!

Before her stroke, my grandma, was a feisty red head with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.  She read cook books like novels, just like me.  I can close my eyes and picture her, sitting at her kitchen table flipping through the pages of these cookbooks, so deep in thought that the ash of her cigarette grows longer and longer as it sits in the nearby ashtray.  Someday that will be me.  Minus the smokes. :)

Not that it mattered, but they were vintage cook books and I was curious to see what, if any, value they had.  The BHG was selling for a little over $100.  The Betty Crocker was somewhere around $325.  This of course would probably be for a non-tattered, non-smokey book, but to me....these books are priceless. 

My two all time favorite cookbooks!
This is a page on Appetizers.  I'm not too sure about the weird liver sausage pineapple thingy, but how cool are the Pretzel Pops!!!  Cubed cheese or sausage topped with a halved olive and speared with a pretzel stick.  Don't be surprised if you see this at my next get together. :)
On this page it seems as though the fruit kabob and beloved Cheese Ball were new adventures in appetizers.  The illustrations are also funny in both books.
♥ Tattered, brittle, yellowed and smelly...I wouldn't want them any other way ♥

#7 - Microplane®

Microplane® is the maker of what I think are the world's best graters.  My two favorites are the mini grater and the medium ribbon grater.  The mini is perfect for hard cheeses, fresh ginger, nutmeg, and garlic.  As well as fine chocolate shavings and citrus zest.  The medium ribbon grater is also perfect for hard cheeses and makes beautiful chocolate shavings for desserts.  If you don't have one of these.  You should.  Cool little tip:  No pickle relish?  Shave your pickles!!!  Who ever thought I would get to say "shave your pickles" out loud?  Blogging rocks!!!

These also make great gifts!!!
#8 - Pampered Chef

I probably don't have to talk much about these because who doesn't already know about and love Pampered Chef.  I've probably got just about every gadget they make.  Along with the Deep Covered Baker, the new and improved can't cut your fingers off Mandolin, muffin tins, spatulas, scrapers, stone baking sheets, metal baking sheets, measuring cups, cookbooks and everything in between.  Here are a few of my most used and favorite in betweens.

My kids love their PBJ made with the little sandwich press-n-seal.  I use the scoops all the time for the perfect sized cookies, muffins, peanut butter, you name it!!!  The pineapple slicer/corer and the apple slicer/corer is so fast and easy.  Tip:  Use the pineapple slicer first on your pineapple and then use the apple slicer on the makes perfect little pineapple strips.  Kids love it!!!
#9 - Food Blogs

These blogs put anything I post to shame.  Their pictures are absolutely amazing (hence the reason I often refer to them as my food porn), and they make it easy for the home cook to feel comfortable in their kitchens by often times giving step by step instructions which include pictures.  If you want to see how a real food blogger rolls...check out these pros, but come back here too!  Amateur food bloggers need love too!!!

Kevin & Amanda
Two Peas and Their Pod
Do You Know The Muffin Pan?
Ceramic Canvas

#10 - Memories

Memories.  Kitchen memories.  Food memories.  Family sitting around the table memories.  My favorite memories revolve around food, family and friends.  I know some of what I do is rubbing off on my kids because the other day I caught my seven year old sitting at the table taking this picture of his half ate bruschetta burger.  Such a proud moment! LOL :)

Now, stop reading my lame blog and go make your own favorite food memories.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Perfect Roast Chicken

There are a couple of different recipes, techniques, and restaurants I consider cooking/foodie rites of passage. One of them is roasting the perfect chicken and that's what I tackled last week and it turned out FABULOUS! It was a lot easier than I anticipated so I urge you to try this recipe.

1 4-5 pound whole free range chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon halved
1 whole garlic bulb halved through the equator
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Sage
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups button mushrooms
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse the chicken with cool water inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Then stuff the cavity with lemon, half of the garlic bulb, a sprig fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 sprig fresh sage. In a food processor combine butter, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig thyme, and 1 sprig sage and process until well combined. Season the butter with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken breast side up in roasting pan. Tie the legs of the chicken together with kitchen twine. (In a pinch you can use dental floss.) Rub the herb butter with a pastry brush all over the chicken. Put the mushrooms in the bottom of the pan. Put in all extra garlic cloves, and tear off small parts of all spices and lay on top. Pour a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on the mushrooms. Roast the chicken and mushrooms for 1 hour and 45 minutes until the drumsticks move easily in the sockets and juices run clear. (180 F in the thickest part of the thigh.) Baste the chicken with any extra butter and drippings and rotate the pan every 30 minutes to ensure a crisp golden skin. Remove the chicken to a platter, tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes before carving.

This was one of the best roasted chickens I've ever had! The skin was so crisp and the meat was so juicy. The flavors blended perfectly and the mushrooms were amazing.

Rite of passage #1, down!

Much Love,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

REVIEW: Community Helping Produce Co-op

For those of you who are not familiar with the Community Helping Produce Co-op it is a community based produce co-op that serves the St. Louis area and the surrounding communities, including a few areas in the Illinois Metro East.  The deliveries run every 2 weeks to the many designated delivery sites throughout the area.

It's a simple process.  From their website you place your order.  (Be sure to check the website for the different location's delivery schedules and that will determine when the online ordering becomes available for purchase.)  For only $23 you order "a basket".  At the time of your order you do not know what produce will be included, but I can assure you it is well worth it.  If any of you have looked at the prices of grocery store produce lately $23 is a fantastic deal for the amount of produce you get.  The more people that order...the more produce you get.  Your $23 is pooled together with the other orders in your group.  Then the coordinator works her butt off and finds the best deals, orders cases, bushels, and pounds of different produce.  The delivery truck pulls up the day of your delivery and the coordinator along with other group members unload the truck and start dividing out the produce into the awaiting containers.  If you get there early you are encouraged to help and there is usually some leftover items that the coordinator offers to those who do so.  For example:  If a bushel of apples yields 5 apples per basket, and there are 15 apples left from the bushel....those 15 apples are available to grab a couple extra.  Some days I don't help, but on those days I do not grab anything extra either.  Sorry, just a little pet peeve of mine.  Help and you get rewarded, right?  Don't assume it's free though...make sure you are given the okay.  However, throwing in an extra $1 or $2 is well deserved.  These ladies who put this together do a fantastic job and it isn't easy work.

My first co-op experience (about one year ago) I got the newbie job of bagging 3 bushels of fresh green beans into gallon sized plastic zip top bags.  Not a fun job, but there was one extra bag after it was all said and done.  Score!!! If you knew how much my family loves fresh green would understand why I was so excited.

One of my favorite aspects of this group, is there is no long term commitments like other co-ops and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups.  If during the winter months you don't feel like getting out in the elements to pick up your basket, don't order.  If during the summer you have your own gorgeous garden in your own back yard, don't order.  If you are out of town, or you just feel like going on a Twinkie binge - don't order!  Simple as that.  Also, don't expect all organic or even all local produce.  They try really hard to stay local as much as possible, but bananas, oranges, lemons, limes are a little hard to find local.  They do try, but at times it just isn't possible.'s produce....the same stuff you find in the grocery store, but cheaper.  Period.

I also love that there are many extras that you can order as well.  Currently there are over 200 extra items that can be purchased and picked up at the same time you pick up your basket.  Items range from extra fruits and vegetables, different pastas, eggs, jams/jelly, local honey, local made pizza crusts and tortillas as well as fruit butters, peanut butter, jars of pickled vegetables, bulk varieties of nuts and even tortilla chips.  This extra added bonus can almost make this a one stop shopping experience.  You would still have to go to a grocery store, bakery, or butcher shop for dairy, baked goods, and meat items.  Well, I guess you could always bake your own bread and milk your own cows.  No?

So, last week after awaking from my long winter's nap...I placed my order and today I picked it up in Maryville, IL.  I highly encourage anyone with a family, who loves a variety of fruits and vegetables, who likes to save money and who can eat the following amounts of produce during a two week period to check it out.  It really is a great group and we can all use a little more produce in our lives, right?  Okay, enough of my blabbing...this is what I got for only $23.

1 head of cabbage
1 cantaloupe
1 vidalia onion
2 bulbs of garlic
4 large red potatoes
6 Roma tomatoes
6 bananas
1 lb. strawberries
8 oz. mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions (green onions)
1 head of leaf lettuce
1 quart of snow peas
1 lb. baby carrots
3 grapefruit
6 gala apples
5 navel oranges

I also ordered a few extras:

18 oz. local honey (Salem, IL) for $4.75
Bag of 5 lemons/5 limes for $2.75
4oz. green bean chips for $3.15

Stay tuned for my first ever video blog review on Green Bean Chips!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From Boring ~ To Brilliant

A lot of people turn to chicken as their main protein.  It is so versatile and can adapt itself to any flavor you may be craving.  That makes it kind of difficult not to use it.  Not to mention, it's also healthy when prepared practically any way other than fried.  

Speaking of healthy, has Jess or I ever mentioned that we met while working for a weight loss company?  Hmmmm...go figure, right?  We love food so it makes sense.  Well, I loved the counseling part and HATED the selling part.  I didn't like selling people something that they didn't need.  There isn't a magic pill.  I stuck it out for a little while though and I was mainly there to hold myself accountable and to lose some weight of my own.  Which I did.  Then I quit.  Terrible, I know.

Anyway, back to the chicken.

Even though chicken is what I think of as the MVP (Most Versatile Protein) it can still sometimes be BORING, right?  I hope over time Jess and I can build up a great selection of easy, but wonderful recipes that take your chicken from BORING to BRILLIANT!!!

So, here is something I made recently.  It was heavily adapted from the Food Network chef, Claire Robinson's, recipe for Bacon & Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts.

Here is how I made it my own.


  • 1 - Best Life Buttery Stick (feel free to use room temperature real butter if you wish)
  • 4 oz. crumbled mild blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola)
  • 3 oz. jar of Hormel Real Bacon Bits
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast


In a medium sized bowl smash together the buttery stick, blue cheese and bacon bits.  Set aside.  This is formally known as a compound butter and can really jazz up any boring chicken, steak, burger, name it!  If you don't like blue cheese, try another cheese.  Make it your own.  A quick Google search for "compound butter" can get you started in the right direction and give you lots of great ideas.  Smaller amounts can also be made by adjusting the ingredients accordingly.  I usually wrap mine up in plastic wrap creating a "log-o-butter" and place it in the freezer.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Cut into the side of the chicken breast being careful not to cut all the way through.  Open up the cut to form a pocket and stuff the chicken breast with 2 Tablespoons of the compound butter.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of canola oil in a skillet to medium high heat and saute the chicken breasts for approximately 10 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches 160 - 165 degrees.  I'm weird about my chicken and tend to take it all the way to 165 and don't worry about the little bit of carry over cooking that might take place.  It still comes out moist and juicy.  While I'm not a fan of dried out, rubbery chicken...I'm also not a fan of food poisoning.  So, I'll take my chances.

SIDE NOTE:  Prior to this blog I would always spell blue bleu cheese.  I recently read an article that unless you are from France, and plan on pronouncing it with a French accent, don't spell it in French.  So...since I'm not even close to being French and even flunked my high school French class with probably the lowest recorded grade in history....I will now spell it BLUE. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review~ Joe Boccardi's Swansea, IL

This past Tuesday my friends and I decided to try out Joe Boccardi's in Swansea, IL. The restaurant just recently opened and I had come across a couple coupons so being the adventerous girls we are we decided to check it out.

Of course it was POURING down rain as we all pulled into the parking lot which meant we all came running into the door soaking wet, but that was soon forgotten when we saw each other. Luckily it wasn't that busy and they were able to seat us right away. They sat us in a booth right by the door which was a little tight for 5 people, but we made it work. As we looked over the menu we were all impressed with the many choices they had. I asked the waitress if we could use more than one coupon per table and was surprised to find out that we could use three per table...BONUS! We all decided quickly what we wanted and how we were going to divide up the coupons.

With one of our coupons we got a free appetizer so we settled on the sampler which consisted of mozzarella sticks, toasted ravioli, and chicken fingers. They were all delicious! I'm a sucker for fried food so those three things are a perfect combination. 

We all got salads with our meals. Nothing too exciting: lettuce, cheese, tomato. I got the house dressing which was really good. Just your typical salad. They do have other salads on the menu with a lot more toppings that also looked good.

I ordered an 8oz Ribeye. Normally I would have gotten pasta or pizza but I decided to give up red meat for Lent and this was the last opportunity I had to have some steak before then. It was an ok steak. I probably should know better than to order a steak from anywhere that is known for it's pizza. I like my steak cooked to medium rare and it was cooked perfectly, it just could have used some more seasoning. The baked potato that came with it was really good and cooked perfectly.

Jen ordered the Chicken Mudega (Two boneless breasts of chicken lightly breaded in Italian breadcrumbs covered in our olive oil, lemon, and garlic sauce.) This dish was definitely not a hit for Jen. She said it wasn't what she expected. I had a bite of it and wasn't a fan either. The lemon flavor of the dish was overpowering. I didn't taste any olive oil or garlic. At that point everyone took a bite of it and Corinne was the only one of us who liked it (she's usually the extreme picky one). I've had Chicken Mudega at another Italian restaurant in the area and this was completely different from that dish. Because of that I did a quick internet search before writing this and discovered that there seems to be a considerable amount of different ways to make Chicken Mudega. I won't right off the dish completely but we probably won't be ordering that from Joe Boccardi's anymore.

Kristen and Lindsay both ordered the Linguini Della Compo (Grilled chicken with broccoli and mushrooms served in a white cream sauce.) They both had nothing but good things to say about their dishes. The chicken in the pasta was juicy. The broccoli and mushrooms were cooked correctly. The cream sauce was seasoned just right. I had a couple bites and also thought it was good. I'm not a fan of broccoli so it's nothing I would ever order, but they both liked it enough to order it again.

Corinne ordered the winner of the night in my opinion. We knew we wanted to try Joe Boccardi's pizza so I told her just to pick whatever sounded good to her and she chose the Pizza Alla Margherita (Shrimp, Scallops, Crabmeat and Alfredo Sauce), minus the scallops for her because those aren't her favorite. I only have delicious things to say about the pizza. With the first bite I was thrilled and felt myself being overcome with "food envy". First of all they use provel cheese on their pizza which is my absolute favorite! (For any of you that aren't familiar with Provel Cheese here is a quick explanation: Provel is a white processed cheese that is popular in St. Louis, Missouri. Provel is produced with Cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. It is soft at room temperature, with a gooey and almost buttery texture, and thus has a low melting point. It is the traditional topping for St. Louis-style pizza.) The combination of the Provel, Alfredo Sauce, Crabmeat, and Shrimp was to die for. And the crust was perfect! It was St. Louis style thin crust, but not as crunchy as typical St. Louis style pizza. I am a fan!

All in all our experience at Joe Boccardi's was a good one. I definitely want to go back soon and try some more pizza and pasta. I'll stay away from the entree dishes, but as long as they keep making amazing pizza and delicious pasta I'll keep going back!

Much Love!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday Night Dinner

I usually don't cook on Monday nights because typically I open the drive thru at work on Monday mornings which means I have to be there at 7am. So after getting up at 5:45am and working till 4:30 I'm sure you can imagine how exhausted I am. But...things have changed (at least for the Lenten season). Now on Monday nights my friend Corinne and I are going to a Bible study at church so I thought that would be a good night to cook something easy and have her over for dinner. So from now on my theme for Monday nights will be "Delicious and Easy".

(Side Note about me: I'm also doing weight watchers right now so most of my meals need to be relatively healthy and easy to calculate the points for.)

This past Monday I decided to try and find an actual WW recipe to make. And it turns out I picked an absolutely DELICIOUS one!

Chicken Cordon Bleu:

1 pound(s) uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4-oz pieces
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground, divided
1/4 tsp table salt
1 oz Casa Italia Prosciutto, or other brand, very thinly sliced
2 oz low-fat Swiss cheese (I actually used provolone)
1/3 cup(s) dried bread crumbs, plain-variety
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 large egg white(s)
2 spray(s) cooking spray
1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • Place chicken between two sheets of wax paper; using a rolling pin, pound chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. 
  • Rub chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each pepper and salt. Evenly divide prosciutto and cheese over chicken; fold chicken in half to cover prosciutto and cheese and press down to hold shape.
  • In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place flour on a plate. In another shallow bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.
  • To coat chicken, dredge each piece of chicken in flour; turn to coat. Then dip each chicken breast in egg whites; turn to coat. Next, dredge chicken in bread crumb-mixture and press down to make sure all sides are covered. Repeat until all four chicken breasts are coated.
  • Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat; add butter and oil. When they begin to shimmer (about 1 or 2 minutes), place chicken in a single layer in skillet; cook, flipping once, until nicely browned and chicken is completely cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately. Yields 1 chicken breast per serving.
I served mine with fresh green beans (my favorite) and baked potatoes, but really any side of your choosing would be appropriate with this dinner. It was definitely a hit! I will for sure make this recipe again. The flavors were spot on and it was very filling. I think it would also be good with mozzarella cheese too.

I hope when you try this recipe you find it as delicious and easy as I did. It's nice to have easy recipes like this on reserve for long days when the thought of tackling a big dinner makes you want to take a nap before you've even started. Happy Eating! :)

Much Love! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Favorite Chef

Since I've become cookbook crazy I've fallen in love with Tyler Florence. Not only is he wonderful to look at but he's a brilliant chef. His cookbooks have fantastic recipes that are sooo easy to follow. You can definitely tell he's writing them with the home cook in mind. If you've never picked up one of his cookbooks, you should. There is something for everyone in them. He offers a wide variety of recipes for a wide variety of occasions.

So my question to everyone reading this is: What is your favorite cookbook or Chef?

Much Love!

REVIEW: Erato on Main ~ Edwardsville, IL

I was so excited when my friends, Carlyn and Nathan, chose ERATO Wine Bar & Restaurant to celebrate Carlyn's birthday this year.  I was even more excited when we scored a babysitter and could go!!!  I had been to Erato once before, but only for the wine.  I was looking forward to trying out their restaurant menu and with other friends joining us I knew there would be a variety of dishes to try out.

First things first.  The wine list.

Of course being a wine bar they have a very nice selection of wines and also beer and specialty drinks.  I especially like the list named $20 bottles.  That's my kind of list. :)  Rich and I chose a bottle of 2006 Toad Hollow, Merlot Reserve from California.  One word.  Delicious.  Very smooth and not bitter at all on the finish.  I'm not sure, but I would say this was aged in stainless steel because I didn't taste much if any oak.

Onto dinner...

For an appetizer our table chose the Mushroom Risotto & Bruchetta.  The risotto was lightly breaded and then deep fried balls of mushroom risotto set on top of some micro greens and drizzled with a spicy sriracha aioli.  The bruchetta was very traditional, but slightly larger crustini than I've seen at other restaurants.  The crustini was made from their fresh baked bread, sliced thin, seasoned with a little garlic and olive oil and then toasted.  It was topped with a large slice of fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and fresh basil, then finished with a balsamic reduction.  Both very delicious and both reasonably priced at $7.  My husband and I ordered the risotto, but next time I will get the bruchetta!!!  Yum!

Erato changes their menu monthly.  This month there was a large selection of many seafood dishes as well as a few beef options and even a comfort food selection of Chicken Pot Pie.  My husband and I agreed on the Squid Ink Spaghetti & Seared Scallops to share.  Other selections at our table were the Lobster Martini, Petite Filet, and Pompano en papillote.  I was so intrigued by the Lobster Martini and the Spaghetti that I forgot pictures of a few of the dishes.  The scallops were beautifully presented.  There were four scallops to an order.  They were perched on top of micro greens with two sets of two scallops each sitting between a grilled onion ring, drizzled with a red pepper couili.  I never even saw was was inside the puffed up parchment paper...which by the way is what Pompano en papillote is.  Pompano is a type of fish and the "en papillote" actually means hot air balloon.  Which is kind of what it looks like after baking.  The fish is cooked inside of a folded and sealed parchment paper package with an herb wine sauce and the parchment puffs up like a hot air balloon and it served to you inside of the puffed up package.  Kind of fun. :)  The filets were served with purple mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.  My friend, Liz, said it was possibly the best filet she has ever had. 

Oh, there was also a pear salad ordered at our table, but it must not have been all that great because we didn't even talk about it and from what I saw half of it went back with the waitress.  They also serve their fresh baked bread with two different types of butter compounds along the side.  Neither of which were all that great.  One was a bleu cheese and prosciutto ham compound and the other was some sort of chile pepper spiced compound.  It was the best of the two and you could really taste the chile as well as a touch of cinnamon.  I would have just rather had plain ol' butter, but it was fun to try.

So...I was very excited to try the Squid Ink Spaghetti.  I had seen squid ink used in pasta on Iron Chef, but I was curious if it tasted much different.  The answer.  No.  The squid ink lends no flavor what-so-ever to the pasta, but it looks really cool.  It was served with a lemon wine butter sauce with crab meat throughout.  My husband thought the lemon flavor was a bit overwhelming and while I do agree with him it was still a very tasty dish.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, but I would have liked a few more. :)

The Lobster Martini!!!  My friend, Erika, was kind enough to let me taste and boy am I glad she did.  It was beautifully presented, but tasted even better.  The perfectly cooked lobster meat was mixed with grated carrots and sea beans which look like little teeny tiny asparagus tips, but have this amazing taste of the salty sea to them.  It is served with a mini carafe of clarified butter and next time....I'm ordering this!!!!  Absolutely wonderful.

Dessert Time!!!!

For dessert our table chose the White Chocolate Cheesecake served with a Cherry Jubilee Ice Cream,  The Chocolate Decadence Cake served with a Marshmallow Ice Cream and the Creme Brulee Trio.  I didn't try the cheesecake, but there wasn't any fabulous rave reviews.  It was cheesecake.

However, the Chocolate Decadence Cake was passed around the table several times and it was devine.  The cake was more like a slice of fudge and it simply melted in your mouth.  The marshmallow ice cream was okay, but the cake was the winner on that plate.  My husband and I weren't so nice and we didn't even offer anyone at the table a taste of our Creme Brulee Trio.  It consisted of Chocolate Raspberry, French Vanilla and Cinnamon Apple.  They were all very good.  So good that we just kept tasting each one saying "I think this is my favorite" taste..."no this is my favorite".  I think we may have agreed that the Cinnamon Apple was very very very good and possibly really truly our favorite.  I think.  Maybe?

Overall, it was a fantastic meal.  My husband and I had the bottle of wine, mushroom risotto, scallops, squid ink spaghetti and the creme brulee trio on our bill and it was just a tad over $60 (not including the tip).  Very reasonably prices in my opinion and I will be for sure be going back and highly recommend it. 

Note:  Our group did have a couple children and they were very accommodating for the kiddos as well as our larger crowd.  The service was great.  

(From L to R) Jessica, Liz, Erika, Me, Carlyn, and her daughter Cloe

(The not pictured's who also helped celebrate
 include the significant others, Carlyn's dad and her many in-laws)