Sausage Gnocchi With Arugula!

Potato pillows that melt in your mouth, homemade Italian deliciousness…yep, gnocchi.  Instead of a traditional tomato sauce, I love to try new flavor combinations with gnocchi because they are a blank slate!  There are plenty of delicious fresh gnocchi, or frozen fresh options if you don’t make your own. I like to freeze my gnocchi, ravioli, and cavatelli, for a rainy day.  It is my opinion that these types of homemade pasta cook better from frozen.  This meal took under 20 minutes!  Win!
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I received the most perfect pork sausage from the meat CSA at Big Horn Ranch and tossed it with the gnocchi, spicy oregano, red pepper flakes, and the crunch bite of arugula. Dressed with olive oil, a little goes a long way, coating each bite.  The sausage had very little fat, but sorry fat haters, fat is flavor. A reasonable amount is fine! The kids loooooved this recipe and had seconds and thirds.  I happened to have arugula handy, feel free to sub kale or spinach!

 

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Sausage Gnocchi With Arugula

Ingredients:
1 lb. pork sausage, Italian sausage out of casing
1 lb. potato gnocchi, homemade or frozen
2 tbsp. garlic olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt/pepper to taste
2 tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 tbsp. oregano
fresh gated parmesan cheese
Directions:
Cook sausage and garlic in a large pan while chopping and crumbling with a spoon, until browned.
Drain fat. (I was lucky and had no more than 1/2 tsp. of fat so I left it in for flavor.
Meanwhile, boil a pot of water add salt and cook gnocchi until they float.
Drain, save 2 tbsp. pasta water.
Add olive oil, sausage, and arugula to the large pan and toss to coat.
Salt/pepper to taste.
Sprinkle with oregano and crushed red pepper.
Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Corn & Chicken Chowder!

Most of the time my menus are planned around the weather. Chilly, rainy Spring days call for a warm and comforting dinner.

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The days activities determine the intricacy and time commitment of the prep. There is nothing wrong with taking a few shortcuts, like buying a rotisserie chicken, for example. Hey, we are cooking at home, the number one step towards a healthier lifestyle. It is possible to cook delicious meals for the family. It is impossible to add time to our day.

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Sweet corn has just started popping up in my local grocery stores- really early I know, but I have ben totally in the mood, especially after the 78 degree summer teaser days we have had recently. Many of my favorite dishes require fresh frozen or sweet corn cut off the cob. I am a huge salty sweet fan, so anytime corn is roasted with garlic, butter, and salty spices, I cannot get enough. My latest find is a dry sriracha seasoning. I’ve been sprinkling it on everything!

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A corn chowder is a perfect example of this mix of flavors. Comforting, with just enough kick to be different, this recipe is a family favorite and my kid’s eat seconds!
Here is the recipe…

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Corn & Chicken Chowder
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. flour
1-1/2 lbs. chicken breast, roasted (or rotisserie chicken breast shredded)
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 – 10 oz. bag frozen corn or 6 ears of corn cut off the cob
1 14 oz. can cream style corn
salt/pepper to taste
chopped green onions /parsley for garnish
Optional- 3 tbsp. sriracha, dried sriracha, cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter in a soup pot.
Add onions and cook until softened.
Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Stir in flour until thickens.
Whisk in chicken stock bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes.
Add chicken and corn and cook low to medium heat 10 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and top with garnish.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Roasted Corn and Black Beans!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! For some of us, Mexican night is a weekly occurrence, taco Tuesday for example, but for others it is rare.
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In my house, Mexican is an important weekday supper staple. An easy dinner filled with fresh vegetables, and the kids ask for seconds? Everybody wins!
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I change up my menu based on taco type- beef, chicken, pork- or I add some different side dishes. The dishes include some combination of beans and rice, roasted corn, and homemade chunky salsas. Roasting the corn creates a depth of flavor. I especially love corn on the cob done this way- roasted and seasoned with butter, chili powder, cayenne pepper, topped with sour cream and sprinkled with garlic and cilantro. It is absolutely delicious!

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Here is the recipe for my roasted corn and black beans dish…

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Roasted Corn and Black Beans
Ingredients:
2 cups corn, sliced off the cob or frozen.
2 tbsp. Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup black beans, cleaned and soaked
1 tsp. Chili powder
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. Chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste

Ingredients:
Heat olive oil in a medium pan.
Add corn, garlic and onions.
Cook until corn is browned and garlic and onions are softened.
Add beans, salt/pepper, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Mix well.
Remove from heat and toss with cilantro.
Serve warm or cold.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Moroccan Beef and Lentils!

High protein low carbs…because it is almost bathing suit season and seriously delish! Moroccan flavors literally spice up ingredients like vegetables, crushed tomatoes, ground beef, and lentils. You can easily create a sliding heat scale by adding more or less cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.

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I was introduced to these flavors and can’t stop. Lately, I have been incorporating them into quick and easy dinners that take the meal to the next level.

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I cooked this dish in a pan and simmered/softened the lentils in a medium saucepan. Start to finish about 20 minutes -my lentils did cook fast- prep to table. The colors and age of lentils definitely effect their cooking time.
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The key to this dish is great quality meat and I was lucky enough to have some ground beef from Big Horn Ranch . Big Horn Ranch offers a meat CSA!

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Grass fed, natural meat delivered right to your door. Farmer Mike Wright is a grass expert as well as a certified nutrient management consultant. Get to know where your meat comes from, what your meat eats, and what meat from natural sources tastes like… Check it out!

I love getting mail…especially food mail, with hand written notes and instructions! Ha!

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Enough about the beautiful beef, let’s cook it up!

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Here is the recipe…

 

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Moroccan Beef and Lentils
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tiny onion or 1/2small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups water
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 lemon, squeeze
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
red pepper flakes (garnish)
parsley or cilantro (garnish)
salt/pepper

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. tahini
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
Rinse lentils and pick out any sediment, skins, or rocks.
Add lentils and 2 cups water to a saucepan and cook on medium heat approx. 20 minutes until lentils soften. (get to a simmer with little bubbles and keep there never boiling or creating rapid bubbling.
Cook beef in a pan until browned. If there is fat drain, remove meat and put in a bowl.
Drain lentils.
Add olive oil onion and garlic to the beef pan.
Cook until softened and add beef, lentils, and spices.
Remove from heat, plate, and top with tahini sauce, parsley, red pepper flakes.
Serve with a roasted vegetable.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatballs!

Spring is here! So on a recent grocery run I picked up some spinach and crumbled goat cheese. You know, to make my favorite Springy salads- spinach, fruit, pecans, topped with goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil or a fruity balsamic. So today I made…stuffed meatballs. Ha!image

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At least I used the spinach and goat cheese, right?

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I only had one lonely pound of ground beef. This might be the reason I decided to stuff. I honestly love a beef/pork combination with loads of garlic and fresh grated parm. The unique thing about meatballs is that they are a blank canvas. Adding Greek flavors, Mexican flavors, Bacon and Cheese, takes the Italian meatball on a fun vacation!

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Stuffing the meatballs adds an element of surprise. My kids took their first bites and my Brady, age 7, says, “Hey mommy, what did you hide in here.” As he’s chewing spinach happily I just smiled. Bella said, “Is this goat cheese?” Ummm, my Bella is almost 5 and hates goat cheese- unless it’s hidden really well. Apparently, the meat heavy garlic, and spinach wasn’t enough camouflage. Nope, she reached for a spoon and scooped out the goat cheese and ate the rest of her meatball. She told me I shouldn’t post this one.

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Here is the recipe…

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatballs

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef (use your favorite meatball meat ground turkey, ground veal, or a mix!)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt/pepper
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup spinach, finely chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper.
Using your clean hands, mix well until all ingredients are incorporated.
Section off 1/2 inch clump of meat mixture and flatten.
Place one tablespoon goat cheese and one tablespoon of spinach on patty.
Roll up the sides and top with an equal amount of meat and form into a ball.
Put meatballs on a cookie sheet one inch apart and bake 12-18 minutes until desired doneness.
Top with finely chopped spinach and crumbled goat cheese and serve.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

The Best Grilled Cheese and Gourmet Roasted Tomato Soup!

With two kids, a food blog, a foodpreneur business, and co-hosting Between The Eats, grilled cheese is a welcomed “easy meal”. I like to add amazing flavors to the base of the cheese being used- sweet grilled onions, rich sundried tomatoes in oil, buttery toast, and the zing of a spicy mustard!

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The absolutely necessary accompanying soup often gets completely ignored! Here is an amazing roasted tomato soup recipe. With bold, herbed flavors, it pairs beautifully with a gourmet grilled cheese.

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Here are the recipes..

SunDried Tomato and Onion Havarti Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:

4 slices havarti cheese
1/2 onion sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh grated parmesan cheese
6-8 sun dried tomatoes in oil
2 slices of your favorite bread
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. spicy brown mustard

Directions:

Add butter, garlic and onions to a hot pan and cook until lightly browned.
Remove onions from pan and butter slices of bread.
Grill bread until desired toastedness.
Layer cheese slices, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and onions on grilled bread.
Allow cheese to melt on low heat.
Top with mustard.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 -32 oz. cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil+ some for garnish
1 cup heavy cream
1 quart chicken stock
2 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. Rosemary
Salt/pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.
Add olive oil, garlic and onions to a hot pan.
Cook until softened.
Spread tomatoes, garlic and onions, and leftover olive oil in a single layer on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with a lip.
Roast at 375 for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are caramelized.
Remove from oven and place in a stock pot.
Add chicken stock and butter.
Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced.
Puree in a blender until smooth and return to the pot (or use an immersion blender).
Add heavy cream and mix well.
Salt and pepper to taste.
If too thick, add more stock.
Garnish with sundried tomatoes, a dash of rosemary, and serve hot!

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Chicken Romano and Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts!

We are waiting for Spring here in Pittsburgh, PA. Two weeks ago my kids got light sunburn on their faces because it was 75 degrees and sunny, two days ago we had ice and snow and wind and…I seriously just got chilled writing this! Ha!

Mother Nature’s lack of consistency is disturbing. I guess will accept the gloomy, rainy April days only because in May we get to smell the flowers!

Until Spring decides to show up, smell the garlic! Cook, experiment in the kitchen, keep yourself busy! Not only is garlic full of amazing health benefits like lowering cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease, it also adds robust flavor to everyday cooking.

Lately, I have been double-garlicking, which is utilizing garlic olive oil along with fresh chopped garlic. When used in combination, the flavors transform a healthy chicken breast or vegetable dish to ah-mazing! Here are the recipeS…Yep, two today!!

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Chicken Romano
Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (If chicken breasts are super thick, slice in half for faster cooking)
1/4 cup garlic olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp.basil, finely chopped
salt/pepper
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fresh grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

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Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, basil, salt/pepper.
Transfer mixture to a Ziploc bag.
Marinate chicken for 1 hour -24 hours in refrigerator.
Fill a pie plate with breadcrumbs and cheeses.
Coat each chicken breast, shake excess off, and place on a greased or parchment papered pan.
Bake 25-35 mins. or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and coating is golden brown.

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Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts
Ingredients:
1 lb. brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
3 tbsp. garlic olive oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 lemon
salt/pepper
fresh grated parmesan reggiano

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Directions:
Preheat oven 425 degrees.
Place brussels sprouts in a pan.
Coat with oil,lemon juice, and salt/pepper.
Slice the lemon and place a few pieces on top of sprouts.
Roast until edges of sprouts are crispy. Approx. 6-9 minutes.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

Blog Swap Breelicious Bites Gives Us Carmi Family Restaurant!

Today’s post comes from Briana White of Breelicious Bites, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on Coffee And A Blonde, where I showcase a sweet and sassy asparagus recipe that’s on point with one of Spring’s hottest hues!

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Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Carmi Family Restaurant located at 917 Western Ave in the Northside opened in 2011. Owners Michael and Carleen King had a catering company, The Catering Kings, for three years before they dove into the restaurant business. I eat at Carmi often. When they first opened I was here almost every week! The food is so ridiculously good and reasonably priced..it’s perfect for a girl like me that doesn’t like to cook all the time. My two favorites here are the Chicken & Waffles and Shrimp & Grits. As their slogan says, “If you’re hungry for some real Southern Cuisine, give Carmi a try”.

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Chicken and Waffles Photo by: Breelicious Bites

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Shrimp and Grits Photo by: Breelicious Bites

Carmi will be celebrating their 5th year in May, to celebrate they are giving a “Thank You Dinner” to the Garfield Gators football coaching staff. Carleen stated, “They are huge mentors to the team, they are the village. The coaches are from the neighborhood and treat the team like family.” The dinner will include speakers such as former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Logan, an investment banker, and one of the parent’s whose children play for the team.

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Photo Credit: Breelicious Bites Carleen King, Briana White (right)

On my most recent visit I got a chance to chat with Carleen and ask her a few questions:

How did you come up with the name? “We were thinking of names and Michael came up with it, it’s a combination of our names, Carleen and Michael.”

Why did you decide to open Carmi? “I just left my job at Verizon and we were doing small catering jobs.  We were renting a space in a church kitchen, where we had to bring everything in big totes, even salt and pepper. The catering jobs became more frequent and we were beginning to outgrow the space. I remembered that there was a kitchen attached to the Shamrock that had been closed for years. We came to look at the space and Michael suggested we open a dining room. Although, I was a little nervous, I agreed.”

What is your favorite meal at Carmi? Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes and fried corn

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Smothered Chops Photo By: Breelicious Bites

Top Seller? Fried Chicken and mac n cheese

What’s your favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh? Savoy’s NEW menu and The Village Tavern and Trattoria

Favorite Food? Lasagna

Least favorite food? Oysters and hot dogs…and anything that has a weird texture

Contact info:

http://www.carmirestaurant.com/

412-231-0100

Thank you Briana White!  Visit Carmi Family Restaurant and breeliciousbites.com today!

Ciao!

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Strawberry Basil Fontina Bites!

Have you ever found yourself needing appetizers in a pinch? Most of the time I whip up an Italian meat, cheese, and olive tray. My go-to tray not only pairs perfectly with the drinks, which most often accompany my need for appetizers, but is also super easy to create because the ingredients are always in my refrigerator!

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Spring into entertaining in the warmer months and winter appetizer choices seem overused.  Spring clean your recipes and replace the winter palate with sweet and savory small bites, with a ton of color of course! Easy and delicious are equally important qualities of these quick appetizers. Seasonal fruits and herbs are absolutely scrumptious with cheeses. What cheese works best? A solid but creamy cheese with a strong taste is always on point.

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Don’t forget the finishing drizzles. I am currently obsessing over Vincotto’s Fig. A sweet and smooth vinegar, made from fig juice aged in oak barrels. It is versatile, tasty, and totally addicting! So here is my latest creation…enjoy!

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Strawberry Basil Fontina Bites

Ingredients:
12 strawberries, washed and destemmed
12 medium basil leaves
4 oz. fontina cheese, cut into 2 inch squares
toothpicks
Vincotto Fig vinegar for drizzle

Directions:
Stack one piece of cheese, one basil leaf, and one strawberry stem side down.
Spear with a toothpick.
Drizzle vinegar to taste.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!

The Best Egg Salad Ever!

Use up your leftover hard boiled eggs and transform them into a creamy egg salad you can slather on some fresh bread. The flavor is bold, but very comforting. I totally forget about egg salad! With Easter right around the corner, you have the eggs already made, so….

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Of course you could just mix the eggs with mayonnaise, but that is totally boring. Channel the flavors of your favorite deviled eggs, the spicy, the sweet, the savory. By savory I absolutely mean BACON! First, you need my perfect hard boiled eggs recipe. Now, the egg salad…

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The Best Egg Salad Ever

Ingredients:
6 hard boiled eggs
1 cup chopped bacon, cooked
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp. spicy mustard
1 lemon
salt/pepper
fresh dill, finely chopped
paprika, sprinkle
your favorite soft bread

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Directions:
Add hard boiled eggs to a large bowl.
Mash with a fork or coarsely chop into squares.
Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
Mix in chopped bacon.
Squeeze 1/2 lemon.
Top with fresh dill.
Spoon a heaping pile of egg salad between two slices of fresh bread.

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Enjoy!
Ciao!