Monday, November 28, 2011

Mashed Taters heaven

Hi friends!!

So I wrote this post about a week ago and forgot to post it!  Opps.  How was your thanksgiving?  I hope well.  Mine was wonderful.  I spent most of my time at my sisters relaxing and being lazy.  It was so nice to not do anything.  I ate myself silly and let myself just relax.  Back to reality of work, eating healthy and getting my booty back to the gym.  This post is from a recipe a couple weeks back but it fits in perfectly for all those leftovers you probably have from thanksgiving.  I give you mashed potato lasagna.  I get the Kraft email each week and this one caught my eye right away.  It was so easy to make and is delicious.  I froze half of it and can't wait to enjoy it again.

Easy Pierogi Casserole 

9 lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups
  hot mashed potatoes

1/2 cup
(1/2 of 8-oz. tub) PHILADELPHIA Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

  green onions, thinly sliced

1 pkg. (3 oz.) OSCAR MAYER Real Bacon Bits, divided
2 cups
  KRAFT Shredded Triple Cheddar Cheese with a TOUCH OF PHILADELPHIA, divided

HEAT oven to 375°F.
COOK noodles as directed on package, omitting salt. Meanwhile, combine potatoes, cream cheese spread, onions, 1/2 cup bacon and 1 cup Cheddar. 

PLACE 3 noodles in 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; cover with 1/3 of the potato mixture. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining bacon and Cheddar; cover. 

BAKE 30 min. or until heated through. Uncover; bake 3 to 5 min. or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 10 min. before cutting to serve. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Risotto - A labor of love

Comfort is so yummy!!!  There is one dish that I have come to love over the past couple of years and I just can't seem to get enough of it.  I almost always will order it when I go out to eat and its on special or on the menu.  And that yummy dish is risotto.  It is always so creamy, and cheesy and just the perfect bowl of food.  One of my friends Lauren introduced me to this recipe, Pumpkin Risotto last year some time and since then I have made it several times.  The recipe title is a little deceiving as its not really pumpkin that is in the recipe rather it is butternut squash.  I am sure roasted pumpkin would be just as delicious though.  This is a Wolfgang Puck recipe and sometimes he refers to butternut squash in the recipe and sometimes he refers to pumpkin.  I was confused the first time I read over the recipe and decided to go with butternut squash as it is what is listed in the ingredients list. 

Have you ever made risotto?  It really is a labor of love and requires a lot of babysitting and time.  But trust is totally worth it.  I have made several different types of flavors and each time it is no disappointment.  I was introduced to risotto in college and have been in love ever since.  It is not the healthiest of dishes but you can absolutely make it a little more better for the waistline.  I made a couple changes this time when I made this recipe and while it was still yummy I could tell there was less butter and cheese in it.  Oh how I love cheese and butter but my thighs and butt do not ;)

As I stated in my post from this weekend, my dad was here to visit.  We went out to a nice dinner on Friday so I wanted to make a nice meal for us on Saturday.  I picked up half my ingredients at the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and the remaining at Fresh Market.  I decided to throw some grilled shrimp on top of the risotto for some protein.

One of the main ingredients in my marinade for my shrimp was paprika. 

 My dad recently just got back from a cruise he took around Europe.  One of the gifts he brought back for me was some paprika from Budapest.  Obviously I had to use it while we here.  This paprika doesn't taste like the jarred stuff you get from the grocery store.  It was a taste between sweet and smokey.  I like!!!

I marinaded my shrimpy's for about 5 hours before cooking them but really they don't need much time.  They take on flavor very quickly.  I simply marinaded mine in:

S & P

 I then cooked them in my grill pan. 

These bad boys cook QUICK.  So don't walk away (plus you will need to be stirring you risotto anyways :)).  These little guys will be done in about 5 mins so do them at the last minute after you have added the cheese and butternut squash to the finished risotto.  Here is how I made the yummy risotto:


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used about half of this to cut calories)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (really any white wine will work.  Be sure to use one that you like though.  You can really taste the wine flavor in the finished product)
  • About 6 cups of hot chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 butternut squash, one half baked in the oven and then pureed; the other half, peeled, cut into small dice, and Sauteed in a little oil and butter until tender

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (I used about half)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (again used about half)


In a medium-size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.

Add the white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the rice completely, about 3 cups, and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Pour in 1 cup more of the remaining stock and stir and cook until it has been absorbed. Repeat with 1 more cup. Add the remaining cup and cook, stirring, until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy, and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

 Stir in the pumpkin puree and the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn't simmer anymore. Stir in the Parmesan and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon it immediately into heated shallow serving bowls.

I know this recipe is a lot of work with all the stirring and babysitting, but I assure you.  It is WELL worth it.  It is delicious.  I think my dad really enjoyed it and I am excited to eat it with my meals for the rest of the week.  This makes A TON!  Wolfgang says four servings, I say 8-10.  While I would love to have an entire bowl of this as a meal it really isn't practical for me.  I need some protein with it, so instead I eat it more as a rice side.  You won't be sorry you made this :)

Enjoy my friends!  Until next time :)



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Zest! - A review

Happy Sunday friends!

My weekend was wonderful.  My dad came to visit!!  The past few times I have gone to Valpo he has been out of town so I have been unable to see him for a couple months.  I have been missing him a lot so I was really looking forward to him coming to visit.  He is the best dad in the world.  I may be a little biased but he is always there for me good or bad.  He is so kind, loving and understanding.  He was just want I needed this weekend. 

Friday night when he got into town I took him to a restaurant near my apartment in Broadripple called Zest! Exciting Food Creations.  It was AMAZING!  It is a little pricey so bring mom or dad when they come into town ;)  But it was very tasty and I will absolutely be going back.  

The story behind the restaurant "is a unique locally-owned restaurant and caterer. The imaginative concept of 'Downhome Goes Uptown' gives lovers of unique food and warm service memorable dining experience".  Guy Fieri visited the restaurant on his show Diners, Diners, and Drives and you know my love for that show.  When walking into the place it is small but cute and inviting.  We had reservations at 6 but did not need them.  The place was practically empty but started to fill up once we were leaving.  The service was friendly and fairly quick.  Our waiter provided a couple suggestions and visited often.  The menu is limited but imaginative. There were 7 main entrees to choose from with 3 or 4 specials.  I of course couldn't choose between 3 different entrees.  

 I ended up picked the

Chick Pea Cakes
pan-seared shiitakes, lemon-pistachio
couscous, fresh herb pesto, crispy spiced
chick peas, grilled asparagus

 Dad (with a mouthful)  chose the

5-Hour Braised Short Ribs
rosemary-gorgonzola polenta,
roasted brussels sprouts
Check out the size of that bone!!!

We both thought our meals were absolutely fantastic!!  After we finished our meals we headed to Morty's comedy club where we met up with some of my co-workers.  We were there for the semi-finals of some contest and Comcast was there to film it.  A total of 6 comedians performed and we picked 2 of the best.  Morty's closed down for a bit and then re-opened a couple of months ago.  I was happy to see that it is now non smoking and still funny.  We had a great time.  Every comedy show I have ever been to I for some reason get picked on.  This comedy show was no exception.  We were seated right next to the stage and I just knew I was in trouble.  I got through the first 4 comedians with flying colors.  Then when the fifth stepped on stage I was a goner.  He kept looking in my direction and I just knew he was going to call me out on something.  Sure enough near the end of his skit he did.  Something about Bart Simpson and Barney.  I don't really remember as I was totally embarrassed and couldn't hear anything!  Saturday morning Dad and I headed to the Broadripple Farmer's Market to pick up some items for dinner.  The Farmer's Market in Valpo is a tad small so I wanted my dad to see a larger one.  Sadly we are nearing the end of the season and so there weren't as many vendors as normal.  Despite that dad still enjoyed it.  We also visited Fresh Market for the remainder of my ingredients for dinner (blog post to come) and dad was OBSESSED with this place.  I have a strong love for this place as well and knew dad would enjoy.  The moment we walked in he was excited.  He left me in the produce section and I didn't see him again for 15 minutes.  They don't have markets like this in Valpo so he enjoyed himself.  We had lunch at Taste and then spent the rest of the day napping, watching college football and watching a slide show of 800 pictures from his recent cruise in Europe.  It was a great relaxing weekend and just what I needed to feel recharged ready for the week.  Hope ya'all enjoyed your weekend.



Sunday, November 6, 2011

I like it saucy!!

Hi friends!!!

Today was a beautiful day in Indy.  It was prefect weather and the leaves have all turned.  While driving to my friend Amber's house I drove with the windows down, sunroof open and music blaring.  Sad to say that might have been my last time to do it this year.  But this is my favorite season so I am ok with it.  Sad day in football for the Colts once again but I still believe in them and will continue to!

While hanging out with Amber and her sweet little girl McElla we switched between the game and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on food network.  Dinner tonight was inspired by a pizza we saw made today.  I knew I was running to the store after I left her house and just couldn't resist getting all the ingredients for this delish meal.  It honestly did not cross my mind that I was going to blog about this but I was talking my dad right before I started dinner and he told me he had just caught up on my recent (or not so recent posts lol).  I then realized that I had taken photos of my last few meals but never posted.  Unbelievable!  I am clearly so unreliable!  ;) 

Tonight's Dinner =  artichoke, feta, pesto pizza!  Um yes you read that correctly....and had me artichoke!  I love them so much.  I put them in anything I can.  Pasta, salads, burgers you name it I will try and make it work.  I just love the tangy taste of this glorious veggie.

Are you ready to drool all over your computer?  This recipe is perfect for a night when you just don't have the energy to cook something.  Enjoy

 Boboli pizza crust.  I put it in the oven for about 10 mins to warm it up before putting the toppings on

Slather with pizza sauce!

And PESTO!  Wipe the drool off your face! 


Artichoke hearts

 Feta....oh yes I went there!

And mozzarella....oh baby!

Bake at 450 for about 10 mins

 Get in my mouth...NOW!

The recipe that this diner made had spinach on it too but I forgot to pick that up at the store.  Really you can through anything on a boboli and it will be yummy.  I hope I have inspired you to think up your favorite pizza and not spend money on that delivery crap :)