Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick Weeknight Pasta With Veggies

Weeknight dinners at our house are usually somewhat healthy and definitely quick. With both of us working late I want something that will be ready in 30 minutes from start to finish. But I also don't want to give up quality.
One night a week we usually make some sort of vegetarian pasta. This sort of dish is easy to put together, tasty and good for you. You can change the recipe according to the vegetables you have on hand.
Two of my favorites variations are:

Spinach, Mushrooms, and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

8 ozs pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
roasted red peppers, sliced
10 ozs baby spinach

Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic and mushrooms saute until softened. Add roasted peppers and spinach cook until spinach is wilted about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain pasta and reserve some cooking liquid. Pour pasta and reserved liquid into pan with veggies. Toss to coat. and

Black Olive, Mushroom and Basil Pasta.

8 ozs pasta2 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
Kalamata olives, chopped
fresh basil, torn

Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic and mushrooms saute until softened. Add kalamata olives and toss lightly to heat. Season with salt and pepper. Drain pasta and reserve some cooking liquid. Pour pasta and reserved liquid into pan with olives and mushrooms. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Both pasta dishes should be served with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

I'm going to submit these to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast. Stop by next Friday and check out all of the delicious pasta dishes that have been submitted. Or better yet submit one yourself!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Girls Night Out At The Jade Palace

A few of us Philly girls, now living in Phoenix and looking to replicate the Chinese food we were used to back home, headed over to Jade Palace in Scottsdale last Friday night.

Let me start by saying I am by no means an expert when it comes to Chinese food. I basically know what I like and that's it. Is it authentic...I have no idea...but if it reminds me of the food I ate at the Imperial Inn back in Philly I'm happy.

Since moving to Phoenix in 2002 I've been on a quest to find the "perfect" Chinese restaurant. In my eyes to be perfect the restaurant would have to meet the following criteria:

1. It has to have wonton soup without shrimp
2. It has to have crispy egg rolls
3. It has to have duck sauce

Up until this past Friday night I had not found a place that met these 3 simple requirements. But that all changed with the Jade Palace. We arrived around 6:30 and I'm glad we had reservations as it was pretty crowded. We were seated immediately in the main dining room where we were able to enjoy the soothing sounds of a harpist during our dinner.

Within minutes of being seated we were given a bowl of fried wonton noodles and some duck sauce to enjoy as we perused the menu. We immediately agreed this place had potential.

We decided to start our dinner with some BBQ spare ribs, an eggroll
and some wonton soup.
The spare ribs were delicious; as was the eggroll. The wonton soup, on the other hand, was good but a bit of a disappointment. Although it didn't have shrimp; it also didn't have chopped scallions and the thin slices of pork I'm used to. It's still the closest thing I've found to back home so I would definitely give it a thumbs up.
For our main course we shared pork fried rice,
chicken lo mein
and sizzling beef with scallops

All 3 entrees were perfectly prepared and just as delicious as anything I've had back home. So good we're already planning our next visit.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Making of A Great Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemon liquor produced in Southern Italy; where the Sorrento lemons grow in abundance. Although it can be easily found at liquor stores in the US nothing quite compares to the homemade version.

The process might seem time consuming at first glance but it is actually very easy. We use the following instructions as our guide. Don't stress over being exact, it's all a matter of taste.

15-20 lemons (unwaxed) 2 (750-ml) bottles of Everclear 4-6 cups water 4-6 cups of sugar A large glass jar with a sealed lid Bottles for storing the final product

Before getting started the lemons should be washed and dried very well. Once that is done remove the peel from the lemons; careful to avoid the bitter white pith. If any white pith remains it should be scraped off before going to the next step.

Place the peels in a large glass jar

Add the Everclear.

Put the jar in a cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks.

After the 6 week period it will be time to mix in the sugar and water. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until it turns clear. Allow to cool before adding it to the peels.

Put the jar back in the closet for at least two more weeks.

Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth; pressing down to remove all the alcohol and oils from the peels before tossing them.

Poor the strained Limoncello into the final bottles and store in the freezer until ready to drink.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tim Tam Cookies Have Made It To The US...

And I've been chosen to sample them. A few weeks back I was contacted by the advertising firm, Mr Youth, and asked if I would taste test some Tim Tam cookies. Prior to this I had never heard of Tim Tam cookies, but once they described them of course I agreed. Chocolate wafer cookies filled with chocolate and covered in chocolate; I couldn't possibly turn the offer down.

So what exactly are Tim Tam cookies and why haven't you ever heard of them? Believe it or not there are around 35 million packages of these cookies sold each year. Produced by the Australian baking company, Arnott's, Tim Tams are the #1 selling chocolate cookie in Australia. describes these treats as: "the most irresistible chocolate cookie." "Crisp cookie layers lovingly covered with rich chocolate fudge, and filled with smooth chocolate crème that will slowly melt on your tongue in decadent delight."

My sample cookies arrived this past Saturday, just in time for me to have a mid-afternoon snack. I tore into the package and savored each bite. Tim Tam cookies are pretty good. They remind me of chocolate coated graham crackers with a silky mousse filling.

So if you'd like to experience these Australian cookies for yourself, Pepperidge Farm has brought them to the US for a limited time. You'll find them exclusively at Target until March, 2009.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lemons Lemons Everywhere

It's citrus time in Arizona and our lemon tree is bursting with fruit. A large amount of our lemons will go into making limoncello but the rest will be used in various recipes over the next month or so.

It's always a challenge during this time of year to come up with new and exciting ways to use lemons. Of course my husband won't let this season pass without lemon bars or a lemon tart. And there's always lemon chicken and lemon curd to be made.

But what other options do I have? I would love to hear about your favorite recipe using lemons. Please leave a comment with any ideas.

This past weekend I made a Lemon Glazed Angel Food cake. It was heavenly.

Lemon-Glazed Angel Food Cake adapted from Celebrations by Sheila Lukins

For the Cake 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups large egg whites (from about 12 eggs.)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ cup finely grated lemon zest (from about 4 lemons.)

For the Glaze

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 large lemons.)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted.

Position a rack in the lower half of the over, and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon water, and the vanilla in a small bowl. Set it aside.

Sift the cake flour with 6 tablespoons of the granulated sugar into a bowl. Resift the mixture two more times. Set it aside.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice mixture and the salt and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to high, and gradually add the remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until whites form stiff but not dry peaks.

Fold 1/4 of the flour mixture into the egg whites until just mixed. Add the remaining flour and the lemon zest. Fold until just mixed and smooth.

Pour batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until top is golden brown and cake pulls away from pan sides.

Remove cake from oven. Immediately invert and hang pan over the neck of a bottle until cooled. Run a knife around the inner and outer sides of the pan to loosen cake.

To Make the Glaze In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. immediately spoon over entire cake allowing it to drip down the sides.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inspiration & A Darn Good Salad

Inspired by a salad I saw over at Stacey Snacks I decided to put something similar together for dinner tonight.

I mixed a can of cannellini beans with some olive oil and celery. I chopped up some Kalamata olives and feta cheese. I added strips of homemade roasted red peppers and anchovies. I placed it all on top of bibb lettuce and dressed it with olive oil, lemon and thyme.

The finished product was light, refreshing and delicious. Thanks Stacey for the inspiration.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Coolest Baked Pasta Dish

I recently made a Greek Pastitsio; which I thought was just the coolest thing. Not only does it taste good but if you layer the pasta correctly it makes an awesome presentation when served. Pastitsio is basically a layered casserole of pasta, lamb sauce and bechamel. So what makes this dish stand apart from other baked pastas? The combination of grated nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and cloves, added to the lamb sauce, is what did it for me. I'm submitting this to 2009's 1st Presto Pasta Night hosted by Ruth. Stop by and check out all the other cool pasta dishes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Blog Award...

Julie over at The Sporadic Cook has given me the following award.
Thanks Julie!

I'd like to pass this award on to the following 7 blogs which I enjoy reading:

Stacey at Stacey Snacks

Reeni at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

Lisa at Jersey Girl Cooks

Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

Janet at LaDue & Crew

Laurie at Dalla Mia Cucina

Marie at Proud Italian Cook

Awardees just need to follow these simple rules:
Add the logo to your blog
Link to the person from whom you've received the award
Nominate seven blogs of your choice
Leave a message on the nominees' blogs

Monday, January 5, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Reeni from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice. Congratulations Reeni, you were randomly picked to win a copy of The Prickly Pear Cookbook, by Carolyn Niethammer. Thanks to everyone who commented and everyone who changed their links to

Friday, January 2, 2009


My husband and I spent New Years alone this year. It was a chance for us to just sit back, relax and enjoy some time together after all of the company we've been having lately. But don't think for a minute that just because it was only the two of us there wasn't an abundance of food. On New Year's Eve we did a spread of appetizers which included; cheese, crackers, olives, marinated mushrooms, prosciutto wrapped melon, marinated roasted vegetables, dried fruit and pepperoni. We made a cheese steak stromboli. For those of you that don't know a stromboli is bread dough filled with ingredients (in our case thin slices of steak and provolone cheese) rolled jelly roll style and baked in the oven. We also had a small plate of tripe, cooked in tomato sauce, that my mom made for us. In our family it's tradition to have a little bit of tripe on New Year's Eve. New Year's day we cooked up a small pork butt (pork on New Years is another family tradition) with some carrots, leeks and roasted potatoes. We capped the night off with fresh fruit and zabaglione. HAPPY NEW YEAR!