Friday, October 28, 2011

Presto Pasta Night #237

Happy Friday and welcome to this week's Presto Pasta Night #237 round-up.  Let's get started:

First up we have Penne con la Zucca or Penne with Pumpkin submitted by Deb from Kahakai Kitchen.  This makes a perfect meal for the cool fall weather that's upon us.

Patsy from Family, Friends and Food submitted this yummy recipe for Slow Cooked Sweet Sausage & Tomato Sauce. 

Up next Abby from Eat the Right Stuff tempts us with her vegetarian dish Orecchiette with Aubergine, Courgette, & Breadcrumbs

Inspired by what was in her fridge Tandy from Lavender and Lime put together this wonderful  Broccoli Farfalline.

How about a bowl of this steamy Curried Soup submitted by Juli at Pictures of all My Princesses.

Not a fan of brussel sprouts I think Jen from Smoky Wok might be able to change your mind with her recipe for Shrimp & Brussel Sprouts Fettucine

Next up is Marcella Hazan's Simple Tomato Sauce submitted by the mother and daughter team over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen.

Everything about this dish says...warm me up.  Fettucine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Feta Cheese was submitted by Jamie Cookin' with Moxie.

German & Greek Mac & Cheese is brought to us by Clarion over at Preventing Culinary Amnesia

Finally my submission: Pasta with Sausage & Peas

A big Thank You to everyone that participated.   Next week PPN #238 is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast

Send your entries to ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by Thursday November 3

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Piccolo Sogno Chicago....Review

I found out the hard way that getting dinner reservations in Chicago is not an easy feat. I tried for Girl & The Goat but there's a 3 month wait.  I attempted the Bedford but not a seat was to be had....the same with the Publican and so the story goes. When, at the last minute, I was able to secure us a table for 3 at Piccolo Sogno for 8:30pm on a Sunday I jumped on it.

I had read several good reviews about this place on ChowHound so I was pretty excited to get a reservation. I'll admit though I had second thoughts as the cab driver came to a stop in front of this West River establishment. Not much to look at from the outside...almost unnoticeable actually. But my fears where put to rest as we entered the main dining room.  The exposed brick walls and beautiful crown molding gave off a sort of rustic yet elegant feel.  They say the back patio is perfect for a romantic dinner but unfortunately I didn't make it out there.

Upon being seated we were immediately brought a small basket of bread; which included these amazing anise bread sticks. The flavor reminded me of the Italian bakeries from my youth. The ones that made cookies oozing with anise. But I'm digressing.

Back to our meal...we started with the house antipasto platter which was a chef selection of roasted veggies, hand sliced Proscuitto and pecorino cheese. Although it looked and tasted delicious I don't think this was the best option for splitting between three people. Variety was large but portions were small.

I'll admit that I had decided on my entree before we even left the hotel. I had glanced at the menu and noticed they had pasta with wild boar that point nothing else really mattered. I'm a huge wild boar fan so when I see it on a menu it's pretty positive that's what I'll order.

Even though my boar was extra delicious I was barely able to put a dent into the large portion I received. My husband's milk braised pork shank was probably the biggest piece of pork I'd ever seen and it was so tender it fell right off the bone tender. It was accompanied by braised kale mixed with pancetta and perfectly mashed potatoes. Our dining companion ordered the salmon pasta special which he assured me was equally delicious.
 For dessert we shared the molten chocolate hazelnut cake served with hazelnut ice cream....though I thought it could have been slightly more creamier for a lava cake it was still extremely yummy.
All in all it was a great meal and I think we were all happy to have gotten such a wonderful last minute reservation in a city were reservations are very hard to come by.

Piccolo Sogno
464 North Halsted St # 1
Chicago, IL 60642-7687

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pasta with Sausage & Peas...I'm Hosting Presto Pasta Nights

By the time you read this I will be in Chicago, wandering around the windy city, hopefully eating some great food. But I wanted to let you know that I will be hosting Presto Pasta Nights on Friday, Oct. 28th 2011.

So you don't know what Presto Pasta Night is?  Let me explain. PPN, as it's commonly referred to, is the brain child of Ruth Daniels from Once Upon a Feast. It's a blog event that focuses guessed it: Pasta!

How can you take part in this wonderful event?   It's easy.  Cook up some pasta, blog about it and then send me a link to your post by Thursday, Oct. 27th. (  I will add your post to the round up that will go live here on Friday morning. 

Easy Peasy...and speaking of peas.  Here's a nice pasta recipe to get you thinking.

Pasta with Sausage & Peas

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Italian sausage links
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
1 cup frozen peas
Fresh mint, chopped
½ lb. pasta
1 tbsp.  tomato paste
1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Remove sausage from casing and crumble.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente.
 Add sausage to oil and cook until brown.  Add garlic, paste and crushed red pepper to pan in 3 separate piles. Cook until brown and fragrant then mix together.Season with salt and pepper.

Add peas and a small amount of pasta water to the sausage mixture and cook for about 3 minutes.  When the pasta is cooked add to pan and mix.  Top with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh chopped mint.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Timo Wine Bar on Central....Review

Open just a little over 3 weeks Timo Wine Bar is a nice laid back dining spot in Central Phoenix. The space, formerly owned by Bomberos, has been updated slightly to add a rather nice bar area and a wood fire oven.  Bomberos patio fans fear not they left the awesome outdoor eating area intact.

My friend and I,  needing to catch up on some girl talk,  decided to meet at this little gem of a place for an early mid week dinner and couldn't have been happier.  The sunset menu is composed of mostly shareable items with a few sandwiches, salads and flat bread pizzas included. All of the bread used is made in house and cooked in the wood oven; which to me is a big Yum!

Although they offer a happy hour;  specials are limited to one $3 cheese of the day  and a handful of $5 wines.  Since we were there we decided to take advantage and try that days cheese offering; a mild cheddar encrusted in espresso powder & lavender drizzled with balsamic vinegar.    Interesting combination of flavors and a nice portion for $3but both my friend and I agreed it wouldn't be something we'd rush out to buy.

Next we decided to share a bruschetta board and the eggplant dip; what the waitress told us were two wonderful choices.  You get to pick 3 toppings for your bruschetta.  We opted for the roasted tomato with olives and triple cream brie, the spicy coppa with burrata cheese and a layer of house made pesto and the thinly sliced fresh figs and green apples also accompanied by triple cream brie. After tasting all 3 my friend and I both agreed that the roasted tomato was by far our favorite.

 The eggplant dip, as they refer to it, was more like a caponata if you ask me. It was served up nicely with some goat cheese,  black olives,  tomato & onion slices and some warm crostini; all drizzled lightly with olive oil. Wonderful presentation and absolutely delicious.

Portions are nice size and definitely promote sharing. Unfortunately neither of us had saved room for the wood fired peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream that we kept seeing go by.  Maybe on our next visit.  I know I'll be going back to Timo soon.

Timo Wine Bar
8801 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85020
(602) 354-3846

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Eats & Giveaway Winner

Here's a quick photo tour from the BBQ we had this past Saturday night.  Yes, it's still warm enough here in Arizona for a BBQ. Giveaway Winner announced at the end.

Jewish Apple Cake

Grilled Corn topped with Balsamic, Parm, and Mint

Rosemary Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Skillet Corn Bread

Giveaway Winner:
The winner of The Social Network Diet book by Miriam Nelson is Anna from One Design at A Time Check out her website for some amazing floral creations.  Congratulations Anna!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roasted Peppers, Olives & Fontina Bruschetta

My husband is a smoker...not the cigarette or funny kind (don't worry mom) but a meat smoker. He's smoked everything from baby back ribs, to briskets, to whole legs of pork.

So it was only natural, when he was looking to upgrade, that he bought a Big Green Egg.  Known for being the Cadillac of smokers they are perfect for low heat, long period cooking. Recently though we've been using ours to do some high heat cooking; baking bread and pizzas, roasting bell peppers and grilling baguettes to be used for bruschetta.

The recipe below is for a classic Lidia Bastianich Northern Italian salad.  We grilled up the components on our Big Green Egg and turned this delightful dish into the perfect bruschetta topping.

Roasted-Peppers, Olive & Fontina Bruschetta
 (adapted from Lidia Bastianich)

 6 roasted bell peppers, cut in 1/2-inch strips
1/2 pound fontina, cut in 1/4-inch matchsticks
1 cup pitted large green olives, sliced in 1/4-inch slivers
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 loaf  bread, sliced thin, grilled and drizzled with olive oil

Toss peppers, cheese and olives together in a bowl. Whisk together the cream, mustard, vinegar and salt in a small bowl; whisk in the olive oil gradually until the dressing is emulsified. Pour dressing over the salad; toss to coat. Let salad sit at room temperature so flavors blend, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve in a bowl with grilled baguette slices.

The salad may be assembled and dressed an hour in advance and refrigerated. Let sit at room temperature before tossing with parsley and serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Social Network Diet; Book Review & Giveaway

It’s common knowledge that losing weight is much easier with support from family and friends.  In her new book The Social Network Diet, Dr. Miriam Nelson delves into some much overlooked ways that networking with like-minded people can prove successful in weight loss.

You won’t find a diet or exercise program between the pages of this book, but rather a practical guide on how a supportive social circle can help you make positive changes in your lifestyle. The book takes you through the process of owning up to what you really eat and how much physical activity you actually get.  It outlines a 7 day jump start to “spark” your new lifestyle and provides tools you can use to develop your network.

I’ve only gotten through about a third of this publication but I can already tell I like the direction it’s going in. Let’s face it we can all benefit from “a little help from our friends”

Some blogs I follow for healthy living and eating motivation:


I have one copy of The Social Network Diet to giveaway. 

1. Leave a comment on this post; tell me what/who motivates you to live healthy
2. Tweet about this giveaway include @foodhunterguide
3. Follow me on Facebook and leave a comment here telling me you did
4. Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment here
5. Follow Dr. Nelson on Twitter and leave a comment
6. Like StrongWomen with Miriam Nelson on Facebook and leave me a comment

Contest ends midnight EST on Sunday 10/16/2011. 


Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Affair Continues...

It’s been awhile since I first told you about my affair. And although I don’t speak about him much; don’t think for a minute that he’s not on my mind ALL the time. So much so that I had to put some distance between us over the past few months. Trust me it was for my own good.

But just when I thought I was over him forever he came waltzing back into my life. He's so sure of himself and of my feelings for him. The worst part is that he’s right. I can’t live without him and frankly I don’t want to! He’s totally irresistible and even when presented with other options I realize I want him and only him.

But this time it's different. He’s involved with someone else. She’s a blond and she’s got him wrapped around her finger. She’s mellowed him out some but that doesn’t matter to me. I’m still totally engrossed by him and don’t mind sharing.  I can easily learn to live with this blondie as long as it means I get a taste of him.

Nutella Swirl Blondies
(adapted from

1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 1/2 Tablespoons Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 by 8 baking pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment (a handheld mixer works fine) mix together the packed light brown sugar, melted unsalted butter and vanilla extract.

Once combined, add in the egg and mix.  Slowly add in the dry ingredients until almost combined. Take a spatula and fold the ingredients together.

Evenly spread the blondie batter into the baking pan. Measure out the Nutella. Drop the Nutella on top of the blondie batter. Drop the Nutella in three rows. (three drops in each row)  Swirl the Nutella up and down. Then back and forth.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Let cool and cut into bars.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dominick's Steakhouse

Amidst the posh new restaurants and stores that make up the Scottsdale Quarter there's a place that takes you back to a time when sipping martini's was fashionable and elegant dining was in.

From the red awning and revolving glass door entry way to the six-foot handmade crystal chandeliers, the embossed dark brown leather walls, and the tiered glass bar Dominick's, which opens Oct.6th, resembles a classic Midtown Manhattan upscale steakhouse with a stunning and energetic atmosphere.

This two tiered 350 seat restaurant offers a dramatic yet intimate dining experience. There are two private dining rooms including a 3,000-bottle wine cellar, and a rooftop poolside area, which makes for a romantic dinner under the stars.

Four of us attended a pre-opening event this past weekend; a chance for staff to practice before the big night. But honestly not much practice was needed as these folks had it all down.

Our waitress was top notch and really had a handle on all of the menu selections. Speaking of the's pretty straight forward. Appetizers range from a classic spinach salad with warm bacon dressing ($6.95), to absolutely delicious Maryland style crab cakes ($12.95), with hardly any filler, to an out of this world buratta and roasted pepper platter with homemade croutons ($12.95).

There are several cuts of steak listed, including a melt in your mouth 18oz bone in filet ($52.95). And a 20oz juicy marbled ribeye ($45.95).

The seafood, which is flown in daily, features a lightly breaded buttery 12oz Chilean Sea Bass ($36.95) and a table-side filleted Idaho Rainbow Trout ($27.95). There's also a few Italian specialties listed, including the traditional Veal Paremsan ($39.95).

 Sides are extra and large enough to share. Like the house made pillow like gnocchi in red sauce ($19.95). Or the tatar tots ($7.95) which were described to us as riced mashed potatoes that were breaded, fried and served along side a creamy mustard sauce.

Dessert is something that should not be missed. Choices range from sorbets, to creme brûlée, to a colossal piece of s'mores cake. Made with homemade graham cracker crumbs and marshmallow this one's hard to resist.

Dominick's, mixed with old school charm and delicious food is my kind of restaurant. But how often will I go back to this high end establishment...only time will tell. With the average cost of dinner per person hovering around $85 this is not a place for a casual night out. But if your looking for a special occasion dinner I would strongly suggest you give it a try.

 Dominick's Steakhouse
15169 N. Scottsdale Rd.