Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gnocchi with Turkey Ragu

Tuesday night I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home to get a fresh package of gnocchi for dinner, Gnocchi with Turkey Ragu courtesy of Cooking Light, November 2007. The recipe was really easy to make and smelled delicious! I couldn't wait to taste it! Unfortunately, the gnocchi was too big which made for an awkward bite. They were also slightly overcooked and flavorless. The ragu was heavenly but next time I have to try a new gnocchi or maybe even learn how to make my own!

Lauren's review: The sauce had delicious flavors that I felt like I was discovering with each bite! I couldn't believe that my serving was only 320 calories! Bonus!
Matt's review: This is really good. My only recommendation would be to get a different kind of gnocchi next time.
Final decision: This recipe is going in the box!

Gnocchi with Turkey Ragu


1 (16-ounce) package gnocchi
Cooking spray
8 ounces ground turkey breast
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Basil sprigs (optional)

Cook gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain. Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through fennel seeds); sauté 2 minutes. Return turkey to pan. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and black pepper. Place about 1 cup gnocchi in each of 4 shallow bowls; top each serving with about 1/2 cup sauce. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Serves 4

Presto Chicken

Dinner on Monday night was Presto Chicken, originally from a Paul Newman salad dressing bottle. I had planned on making this for dinner Sunday night when we got home from Ogunquit but hadn't accounted for the step "marinate for 1 hour". By the time we got home and settled it was 8:00PM and there was NO way I was waiting until 9 to make dinner. As you know, I made a chicken sausage pasta dish on the fly instead. While Sunday's dinner was under way I still put the chicken breast into the Italian dressing to marinate over night. Needless to say the chicken was delicious! It had soaked up all the good flavors from my Paul Newman's Italian dressing! Accompanying my chicken was my first attempt at mashed cauliflower. I boiled a head of cauliflower for 12 minutes and then mashed it with a tablespoon of butter, a splash of milk, garlic powder, salt & pepper. It was really good! Maybe even better than my mashed potatoes?!

Lauren's review: Both the mashed cauliflower and the chicken were easy and delicious! My two favorite descriptions for some of my favorite recipes!
Matt's review: This was really good! I loved them both! Blown away at how good mashed cauliflower tastes! *That's a lot from Matt!*
Final decision: The recipe is a keeper

Presto Chicken


1 cup Italian-like dressing (oil/vinegar based)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin
4 sheets aluminum foil
chopped tomatoes
chopped olives

Place chicken and salad dressing in a large sealable bag, marinate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven at 350.
Place chicken in the center of foil and top with tomatoes and olives. Close the foil tightly with space around the chicken.
Bake for 35 minutes.

Serves 4

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interesting Article

I received a Women's Health email today with an interesting article. I've recently talked to more people than I can remember about "cleanses" and their experiences with them. It didn't sound like something I would like to try. This article is a safer, healthier take on a cleanse, A Body Cleanse That Isn't Crazy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wine & Dine Weekend at 16 Beach Street

Friday after work Matt and I rushed up to my in-laws fully booked B&B to coordinate a "Wine and Dine" weekend. I forgot to take pictures of most of my food from the weekend but I did remember to take a ton of photos of all of our hard work with the wine tasting.

Friday night was a seated dinner catered by both my mother-in-law and their favorite restaurant in town, The Front Porch:
New England Clam Chowder
Assorted Flatbreads
Ice Cream Sundae
White or Red wine to accompany the meal

Saturday morning my mother-in-law treated all of her guests to my personal favorite of her breakfasts, Blueberry Morning.

After breakfast Matt and I ran down to the Kittery Outlets for a couple of errands. We came back to Ogunquit with new white bowls for my kitchen and some, much needed, socks for Matt. I think I got the better bag of goodies for the day.

When we got back to the inn it was time to set up the wine tasting.

Matt arranged the wine tasting to be a blind wine tasting which tested the wine tasters palette by making them determine which three red grape varietals were there and which of each pair of wines from the same grape varietal was the more expensive bottle. The guest had little tasting cards to write down their notes and I had assembled some general descriptions for the different red wine.

Matt's details:

Matt hand stamped and created the "wine glass stain" on the front of the tasting notes

The back of the tasting cards he hand stamped, our location, Ogunquit

Then he hand stamped a monkey and a word commonly used to describe wine. The monkey, Pleepleus, was in honor of our favorite drinking show, Three Sheets with Zane Lamprey. He brings a little stuffed monkey named Pleepleus around the world with him so he never drinks alone.

All the details put together this final product

All of the guests listening intently on how the tasting was going to be run

The wine tasting was a hit and so much fun!

After the wine tasting we went to church to watch my father-in-law sing in their Easter Cantata. After the wonderful cantata when went to Kennebunkport to eat at Alisson's Restaurant. I got a salad with calamari, pepperocini and feta. I ended up eating the salad and the calamari separately.

The next morning my mother-in-law made DELICIOUS eggs in a puff pastry topped with mushrooms and tomatoes with a side of bacon. I didn't take a picture because I was so excited to eat it that my brain couldn't remember where my camera was! Later that day we said our good byes and headed back to Beantown. By the time we got home it was too late to create my meal list and go grocery shopping so I improved with what was in the house. We ended up with whole wheat rigatoni with chicken sausage in a marinara sauce sprinkled with asiago and parmesan cheese. Easy and tasty!

It was a great weekend! We had so much fun running the wine tasting for such a cool group of people! We have four scheduled for next year and we're hoping they all come again!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Zucchini, Sausage, and Feta Casserole

Thursday night after work I had a lot of chores that needed to be done around our little home. We were going up to Maine for the weekend so I had to pack and clean (for some odd reason I always like to clean before I leave for a weekend). My recipe for the evening, Zucchini, Sausage, and Feta Casserole, Cooking Light from July 2007, gave me the time to do all of that while it was baking. The meal was delicious, nutritious, and allowed for time efficiency! All great things!

Lauren's review: This meal tasted fresh and healthy while being satisfying. Delicious! However... removing the casings from the sausage is NO easy task! I think I may have gotten half of the casings off before giving up. I have to find a better way to do this!
Matt's review: This is really good!
Final decision: It's a keeper!

Zucchini, Sausage, and Feta Casserole


2 1/2 cups uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
8 ounces chicken sausage
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 1)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta in boiling water 5 minutes, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Remove casings from sausage. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage to pan; cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan. Heat oil in pan. Add zucchini, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and zucchini begins to brown, stirring occasionally.

Combine broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute. Combine zucchini mixture, pasta, sausage, and feta cheese in a large bowl; toss well. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serves 6

Try this recipe! It is really good!

If anyone has any tips or tricks for removing sausage casings they would all be appreciated!

Artichoke Chicken in a Skillet

Wednesday night the recipe of the evening was Artichoke Chicken in a Skillet served over whole wheat pasta. I actually have no idea where this recipe came from. It's just printed on a piece of paper and my Google search came up empty.

Lauren's review: The recipe was simple. It was also pretty tasty and colorful. Color = nutritious
Matt's review: I don't like artichokes (my reply was "You don't like artichokes and you don't like wilted spinach but you love spinach, artichoke dip?!" Matt's reply was "Maybe it's because the artichokes are cut up smaller?" Interesting...)
Final decision: Matt didn't like it and I wasn't wowed by it so into the recycling bin it goes!

Artichoke Chicken in a Skillet


10 piece package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used chicken breasts because as we previously discovered I am not a fan of thighs)
2 cans of artichokes in water, drained and halved
2 14 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
handful of capers
handful of kalamata olives, chopped
kosher salt and pepper

Season your chicken thighs with kosher salt and pepper and brown them 4 minutes per side in a heavy skillet with olive oil.

To the skillet, add garlic and onions, cook another minute or two, until vegetables are starting to soften.

Next, add your tomatoes, artichoke halves, capers & olives. Turn heat down to low and simmer 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the sauce starts to thicken.

Bon appetit!

On a side note, nothing related to food but related to wine. My husband framed 84 corks last week. This framed wine shrine represents a lot of great wines that we've had over the years and a lot of good money that was spent. I just wanted to share a quick, cool photo of his handy-work.

Book Club Tuesday in the North End

After work on Tuesday I got together with my book club to discuss our most recent book, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. It was a fantastic book. It reminded me of an old world soap opera.

While we discussed the book we noshed on pizza from Ernesto's and then treats from Modern Pastry. Accompanying our dinner, dessert, and conversation were 5 bottles of wine to split between 5 ladies. Needless to say I had a fantastic evening while Matt was working at home eating a frozen veggie burger for dinner. Sorry to rub it in honey!

Our new book for this month is Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen. I'm already looking forward to our next book club get together!

Baked Ziti Casserole

Monday after work I made a delicious and easy dinner, Baked Ziti Casserole courtesy of Cooking Light, October 2007. There wasn't anything extremely memorable about the dish but it was good and simple to make! It reminded me of my recent burrito recipe. I didn't really need this recipe to figure out how to make a baked ziti casserole. I've actually made one before but it's always nice to have a recipe on hand to guide you if you can't remember certain steps.

Lauren's review: Good, solid recipe to have on hand.
Matt's review: This was good!
Final decision: Keep as a reference for future quick and stress-free meals.

Baked Ziti Casserole


6 ounces uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
2 cups Basic Marinara (I used jarred marinara)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Asiago cheese, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
6 ounces ground turkey breast
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Combine pasta, Basic Marinara, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Asiago, salt, pepper sauce, and turkey in a large bowl. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Asiago. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

I picked up some really good Asiago cheese from our Whole Foods and I think it made the dish. Perfect nutty, salty flavor that melted beautifully!


Stuck in a Jail with My Family

Last Sunday my sister, Matt & I walked down to the Liberty Hotel to meet my parents for brunch at Clink. If you are ever in Boston near Massachusetts General Hospital make a little detour trip to the Liberty Hotel. Just walk into the lobby for a look. They recently renovated this 1850 jailhouse into a spectacular hotel. It's beautiful!

Brunch started with coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice and homemade donut holes. The donut holes were the heaven, light and fluffy with the perfect cinnamon, sugar coating!

For breakfast Matt and I split our meals. We tend to split breakfast a lot because I like both sweet and savory breakfast foods. When we split I get to taste the best of both!

Matt got the Western omelet.

I got the greek yogurt parfait with homemade granola and fruit.

Both of our breakfasts were good but not really memorable.

After breakfast we took a little stroll along the Charles River with my family. Then we said our good byes so they could head back home to New Hampshire. After they left Matt and I did a quick clean of the condo before we started working for the rest of the night. Both of us have been really busy at work so we've been trying to get ahead while at home. Before we knew it, it was 7:30PM and I hadn't started dinner yet. Matt saved the day by proposing he take care of dinner so that I could keep working. My savior ordered Dominos! We never order pizza but if there was any a night that called for delivery last Sunday was it. Apparently, Dominos recently revamped all of their recipes. We ordered the Brooklyn style pizza with light toppings of pepperoni, pepperoncini and roasted red peppers. It was very good. I'm actually looking forward to trying their hand tossed pizza which, from what I've heard, has been the best improvement on their menu.

After pizza we both starting working again. Only to start the week all over again on Monday...

Sweet & Sour Chicken and Raspberry Lime Freeze

My parents had a wedding that they were attending downtown so my little sister, J-Ro, came to spend the night with us.

She told us that she wanted to see what it was like to live in the city, in fewer words. So I had her help me pick the menu for the evening and then dragged her with me to go grocery shopping, at three different grocery stores (Market Basket, Whole Foods AND Trader Joe's). By the time we got home it was almost 7PM so we decided to start dinner with an appetizer. She looked up a recipe for bruschetta online and then I made my own interpretation of the recipe. I mixed together chopped up tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, EVOO, salt & pepper. Then broiled a split baguette that we brushed with olive oil. When it was all toasted I rubbed it with garlic cloves and sprinkled it with Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt. We finished of the garlic toast with the tomato mixture. It was delicious!

After the fantastic bruschetta we quickly got to work prepping the ingredients for dinner. Here's my little helper hard at work. Isn't she cute?!

For our entree J-Ro picked Sweet and Sour Chicken courtesy of Cooking Light, April 2007. We served it over a bed of brown rice.

It was a beautiful, warm day so we decided to make a summery dessert. We picked Raspberry-lime freeze courtesy of Martha Stewart Living, July 2007.

Our meal was fantastic! I was so lucky to have such a great helper too!

Lauren's review: All of our dishes were fantastic!
Matt's review: Appetizers to dessert were great! I don't even like raspberries and I loved dessert!
J-Ro's review: The chicken was a little spicy but it was all delicious! So much fun too!
Final decision: The recipes are keepers! Family approved!

Sweet and Sour Chicken


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon bottled ground fresh ginger (such as Spice World)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup dry-roasted chopped cashews

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper, and chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken mixture from pan; set aside.

Add onion, celery, and bell pepper to pan, and sauté 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Add 1 cup pineapple chunks to pan; cook 30 seconds. Reserve remaining pineapple for another use. Combine the reserved 1/2 cup juice, soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Return chicken mixture to pan. Stir in juice mixture; bring to boil. Cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with cashews.

Raspberry-Lime Freeze


2 1/2 pints raspberries (about 7 cups)
1 pint raspberry sorbet, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened

Put 5 1/2 cups of raspberries, the sorbet, lime zest, and lime juice into a blender. Use a spatula to push down the ingredients. Pulse a few times, then puree until very smooth. Add ice cream and puree, stopping and stirring with spatula as needed. Stir in 1 cup raspberries.

Pour mixture into glasses. Garnish with remaining 1/2 cup raspberries and lime zest. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Friday Night in Maine

Last Friday was a bad day. After working all day on a time-sensitive document I accidentally over-wrote it and it was unrecoverable. Ahhh! I definitely needed something to look forward to. Luckily, Matt and I drove up to Maine after my hellish work day to visit with his parents and pick up our puppy! They had been watching Bailey for us since our Chicago trip. A week without him is a LONG time! After being greeted by Bailey's welcome ceremony my misery disappeared! My in-laws even made the night better by telling us we were going out for Thai for dinner! My second favorite Thai restaurant is Mekhong Thai in Wells.

I thought their straw design was too much fun not to share

Salad with yummy ginger dressing

Spring rolls for the table

Then my entree, drunken noodles which is a "spicy noodle dish. Pan fried rice noodles with your choice of meat, eggs, onions, broccoli, carrots, red pepper, bamboo shoots, basil leaves and a spicy chili paste". It was meatless Friday so I got shrimp! I have never had drunken noodles before but I will definitely be having them again! YUM!

My day was all better by the end of dinner!

Mexican Chicken Baked Burritos

Thursday night I grabbed a recipe from my "Stress-Free Weekday Meals" class that I took a couple of years ago, Mexican Chicken Baked Burritos. It's so easy that I'm sure you don't need a recipe but I love having a reminder for oven temps and amounts.

The picture isn't the greatest but I couldn't find my camera and had to resort to using my iPhone.

You can't see all the delicious goodies that were in the whole wheat tortilla burrito but believe me it was bursting (and messy)!

Lauren's review: Probably don't need a recipe for burritos but I'll keep it as a reference.
Matt's review: This is good!
Final decision: It's going back into my recipe box.

Mexican Chicken Burritos


1 package of burrito wraps
1 large jar of salsa
1 bag of shredded mexican cheese
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
canned jalapenos (optional)
2 c. sliced grilled chicken
pre-chopped bag of lettuce
olive oil nonstick spray

Preheat oven at 400. In a bowl add the black beans and half of the salsa. Mix. Season with salt and pepper. Lay out the wrap and add a couple tablespoons of the mixture. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with cheese and more salsa. Place some lettuce on top and jalapenos (optional). Fold ends in and roll. Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil spray. Spray burrito. Bake for 10 minutes.

Serves 4-6

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sean Patrick D's Birthday on St. Patty's Day!

We hung out with two of our friends on St. Patty's day last Wednesday. It was Sean Patrick D's birthday on St. Patty's Day. We had to celebrate! After work we met up with a little crowd down the street for an Irish beer, Smithwicks for me, at the Asgard.

This old photo from a Red Sox game is a perfect example of how much I love Smithwicks.

Then Matt and I rushed home after our beer to freshen up before dinner and to take Bailey out real quick. Then we reconvened with our friend Sean and his beautiful wife for dinner at Toscano. We were all pleasantly surprised when we remembered it was Restaurant Week in Boston. For $33 we had three full-size delicious and filling Italian courses. Yum!

To start (no pictures) Matt had the Caprese salad and I had the Insalata Caterina (Baby Field Greens, Anchovies, Black Olives, Capers, and Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette). I thought I would be adventurous and try anchovies. I tried them but I am not a fan. Yuck! I appreciate and enjoy anchovies in sauces and dressing but I don't like them whole! Ick! Matt was kind enough to give me a bite of his caprese to cleanse my palate.

For dinner I ordered the risotto with crab, tomatoes and shellfish stock. It was very good but I barely put a dent in it. The entree was huge and I had to save room for dessert!

My friend's were kind enough to take photos of their entrees as well as letting me have a bite of each... lucky me getting to try them all so I can report back to my blog!

First, the birthday boy's steak which was cooked to perfection and delicious!

Next was my friend's scallops. Again, perfectly cooked!

For some reason I don't have a picture of Matt's dinner which was Stuffed Chicken Breast with prosciutto, fontina, and tomato cream. His was very tasty too. In the end I think I liked mine or the steak the best. It was a tie.

For dessert I had the pistachio gelato which was good but not as good as the one I had in Salt Lake City.

I made Matt get the blueberry white chocolate tart because I couldn't decide between the two. I'm so lucky he loves me because it was better than my gelato. Keep in mind that I finished off my gelato and probably had about half of the tart. What can I say?! I like dessert! I also don't have it very often. It's okay to indulge every now and then. Right?!

I was so happy that we got to celebrate St. Patrick's day with good food and friends!

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta

I don't remember much about last Tuesday other than it was a crazy day at work (what else is new?!) and I needed a quick, delicious dinner to make my day better. I ended up picking Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives and Ricotta from Martha Stewart Living, September 2007. It was just what I needed after a long day of work! Quick, easy and fantastic!!! I just wish there had been more! This recipe would be great with grilled chicken breast, sans seasoning, on top as an entree or as a starter pasta salad. However, we just had it as a pasta dish for dinner which left both Matt and me very hungry and craving more Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta. I think I ended up just making a protein shake for dessert to try to fill us up.

Lauren's review: One of my favorites! When the recipe says "season with salt and pepper" you can skip the salt. Between the salt-packed capers, olives, and the sun-dried tomatoes it is plenty salty.
Matt's review: This is so good! Is there any more left. I want seconds! (oops!)
Final decision. Definitely a keeper!

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta


Coarse salt
8 ounces gemelli (or fusilli or penne) *I used fusilli*
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt-packed capers, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat. Spread on a baking sheet, and refrigerate 10 minutes.

Pulse sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss together pasta, sun-dried-tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, olives, basil, and salt. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a scoop of ricotta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with pepper.

Serves 6 *I think it serves 6 starter serving sizes but it's the first meal I wanted seconds and couldn't have any*


Monday, March 22, 2010

Ricotta, Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken and Balsamic Mushrooms

Now that I'm officially a week behind in my blog posts I figured I should start catching up!

By the time Matt and I got up from our nap, after our JFK flight diversion, it was time to make dinner. Luckily I had enough ingredients in the house so that I could make a proper dinner. Our Monday night entree was Ricotta, Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken from Cooking Light, June 2006. For our vegetable we had Balsamic Mushrooms from Martha Stewart Living, June 2007.

While I was making dinner Matt went for a little walk. He came back with a good bottle of wine and a box of chocolates from Beacon Hill Chocolates. I love my man!

Dinner was a lot of work! It's really hard to stuff a chicken breast! I am NOT good at it! In the end my chicken sort of just fell apart with melted stuffing every where. I ended up serving it over a bed of mashed potatoes and topped it with marinara sauce, per the recipe recommendation. The balsamic mushrooms were the opposite of the chicken, easy!

Lauren's review: The chicken was delicious but I wouldn't make it again. It was difficult and messy. The mushrooms were good but a little too salty.
Matt's review: I don't like wilted spinach. The mushrooms were good
Final decision: Trash the chicken recipe but keep the mushroom.

After dinner it was time for chocolates! Yippee! There were two kinds just waiting to be eaten. One was an olive oil, sea salt chocolate truffle which was unexpectedly delicious! The other was a Bailey's Guinness Whiskey chocolate truffle which made me think of heaven! They were so festive too with the Bailey's truffle decorated for St. Patrick's day! Matt's little gift of chocolates made my night!

Ricotta, Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken

2 cups boiling water
10 sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 quarts water

Combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and chop.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, oregano, and garlic; cook 3 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; cook 3 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Place spinach mixture in a bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Slice each breast half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side. Open halves, laying breast flat. Place each breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Divide spinach mixture into 4 equal portions; spoon each down center of each breast half, leaving a 1/2-inch border at each end. Fold breast sides over filling.

Place a 2-foot-long sheet of heavy-duty plastic wrap on a work surface with 1 long side hanging over the counter's edge by 2 inches. Place a stuffed breast half, seam side down, on the end farthest from you, and tightly roll the chicken toward you, jelly-roll fashion. Twist the ends in opposite directions to form a cylinder. Tie plastic wrap in tight knots against the chicken on each end. Trim off excess wrap close to the knots. Place a second 2-foot-long sheet of heavy-duty plastic wrap on the work surface; place rolled chicken on wrap, and repeat procedure. Repeat with remaining breast halves.

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot; add chicken. Simmer 15 minutes (do not boil), turning occasionally. Remove from water, and let stand 10 minutes before unwrapping and cutting into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Serves 4

Balsamic Mushrooms


1/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces white mushrooms, halved (quartered if large)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, salt, and red-pepper flakes, and season with pepper. Cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a bowl, and serve.

Serves 4

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Weekend in Chicago

Last Friday was a whirlwind day. I left Salt Lake City at 1:00AM and got home to my little Boston condo at 10:30AM. From then until when I left to go back to the airport at 1:00PM I managed to nap, do two loads of laundry, eat, and repack. I'm not sure how it all got done!? The insanity was well worth it because the end result was being in Chicago with Matt's sister and brother-in-law for an awesome weekend!

We met up with our Chicago family at 6:30PM downtown in Bucktown. After hugs and kisses we went straight to a bar, Blue Line Club Car. We all had one drink there before heading to dinner. The boys both had a vodka martini with blue cheese olives, one Grey Goose and the other Stoli. I had the largest bottle of Fat Tire I have ever seen. My sister-in-law (and her baby girl that will be joining the family in July!) had a cranberry spritzer.

After drinks we headed to the coziest French restaurant in Chicago, Le Bouchon. They had a three-course prix-fixed menu that we all decided to get. There were two options for the appetizer, entree, and dessert so both couples just got the entire prix-fixed menu to share. To start we shared the french onion soup and the salade lyonnaise. Sorry the soup photo isn't very good!

For our entrees we shared the Steak Grillé Maître d’Hôtel (aka steak and fries) and Poulet aux Grains avec sa Gousse d’Ail (a fancy way to say roasted chicken and potatoes).

The two desserts that we shared were an apple tart and a chocolate cake drizzled with an espresso cream.

Everything was delicious! I couldn't even tell you what my favorite part of the dinner was! Of course, accompanying dinner we had a glass of Bordeaux. I'm typically not a fan of European wine because it typically tastes a little too dirty or organic for my palette but even the wine was great!

After dinner we headed to our favorite wine bar in Chicago, Webster's Wine Bar. Someday Matt and I want to open a wine bar that would be very similar to this restaurant. They have a great wine list and small plates that accompany the wine. Their staff is very knowledgeable. The atmosphere is dark with beautiful candle light throughout. A perfect place to drink wine... typically... Friday night the table next to us was VERY loud and obnoxious. We decided to have a glass of wine at the bar and then bring the rest of our Stephen Ross Zinfandel bottle back home to enjoy where we could have a conversation. Oh my... I think I'm getting old!

We went to bed shortly after getting back to their home, as soon as we finished the bottle of wine. I was exhausted from the day. However, Saturday was a new day! We started our morning out with my sister-in-law making a delicious fruit salad topped with vanilla yogurt. She also made their family's banana bread. Such a great, fruity way to start the day!

After breakfast we all headed downtown to see the green river and participate in the St. Patrick's Day celebrations! We ended up missing the parade but we got to see the Ecto Kool Aid river!

Another shot of the green river

Our beautiful Chicago family

After walking down by the river we headed to lunch at State and Lake.

I got a delicious Left Hand Milk Stout.

Both the boys got the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA

For my lunch I ordered the croque-madame which was really tasty.

After lunch we were off to their best-friend's St. Patrick's Day party. Half of the family is Irish so the food was all amazing. My pictures don't do it any justice.

This picture is all blurry because I was trying to take a quick shot in between everyone taking one of the cupcakes. The Irish flag quickly disappeared. I'm not even a fan of chocolate and I loved these little cupcakes!!!

In addition to the food and the beer they had a bag piper! It was a great party!!

Later that night when we got home we had a late dinner/snack from Calo Ristorante. Apparently, they make the most delicious thin crust pizza and fresh mozzarella cheese with prosciutto served with a tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic & olive oil. It was the perfect late night dinner! To be honest, pizza is great anytime but this was my favorite Chicago pizza!

Sunday morning we woke up again to my sister-in-law's delicious fruit salad with yogurt and nuts.

Both Matt and I needed some carbs to help soak up the St. Patty's party so we also split a whole wheat bagel.

After we went for a walk with their chocolate lab, Duncan, along the lake it was time to pack and squeeze in one last meal in Chicago. On our way to the airport we stopped for lunch. We made one delicious detour on the way to lunch, Pasticceria Natalina. We had dessert before lunch! Apparently, they have the best cannolis in Chicago. Their ricotta cheese is flown in from Italy and never frozen. Needless to say you're lucky if you get one of their cannolis. Sunday we were lucky! They had enough for four cannolis. We decided not to be greedy and only ordered two which meant I had to share my little piece of heaven. Fortunately my husband is the greatest and let me eat most of the cannoli! Did I ever tell you all how much I love him?! I love him!!!!

Assembling the cannoli

Final product with candied orange peel, pistachios, and powdered sugar. It even looks how I picture heaven!

On to lunch at Charlie's Ale House. As with most of our weekend, Charlie's had a St. Patty's day theme. Of course I had to order the reuben. It was good but it could have used a little more sauerkraut.

After lunch we drove over to O'Hare Airport. On the way we had a conversation about my colleagues that avoid O'Hare because of all the delays they encounter when they travel through Chicago. Silly me, stated that I NEVER have any problems when I travel through Chicago! That was it... I jinxed the rest of our trip! After saying our good-byes, making it through security, and getting to our gate that's when everything went downhill. First, our flight was delayed by an hour. Not too bad. Board the plane, get good exit row seats, safe take-off... still okay! En route we encountered a lot of turbulence which doesn't bother me as much as it scared one of our flight attendants. Maybe I was missing something? 40 minutes before we're supposed to land the pilot informs us that it's too dangerous to land at Logan so we're diverting to JFK for the night. Matt's happy because he knows how dangerous it really was to land at Logan. During our descent to JFK our plane gets struck by lightning! Ahh! There was a bright white flash in the cabin and a large bang. Scary! We finally land at JFK only to arrive where customer service has no idea what they're doing. There were no hotels available in New York for them to put us up so we will be spending the night in the terminal. Ugh. They end up telling us to go get our luggage at baggage claim then when we get out of security they inform us that we should have stayed in the terminal and we didn't need to get our bags, they're staying on the plane. Ugh, again. Well, we go to get back through security and can't. They've shut the terminal down for the night. 25 minutes later the airline finally finagles us to go back through. At this point there is one snack place still open and I'm starving. You can tell by our "dinner" photo. We spent $50 on snacks! I apparently feared starving overnight at JFK.

Two waters, two veggie & hummus dippers, mixed nuts, potato chips, dark chocolate and two Odwalla smoothies. We ended up eating maybe half of our stash!

After getting a blanket, each, from the airline we tried to find a place to lie down. We ended up finding a spot on the floor, laid one of the blankets down, used our jackets as pillows, and used the other blanket to cover us. We didn't get much sleep in the brightly lit terminal on the hard floor. Ugh. We gave up on trying to sleep around 5AM when some of the shops started to end up again. Time for a "healthy" breakfast. McDonald's!! I got a big coffee and a egg & cheese on a biscuit. They are delicious but I could feel my arteries hardening from the fat and sodium. hehe.

When we finally got back to Boston that morning we discovered that our luggage was lost. Super! I guess if all bad flying things are going to happen it's best to have them all happen at once.

Needless to say, Matt and I went straight to bed for a couple of hours when we finally got home. Ahh... a real bed!!

Although we were very inconvenienced I appreciate being alive and the pilot for making sure that we were! Also, nothing could ruin the fantastic weekend that we had in Chicago!