Tuesday, June 29, 2010

String Cheese, Meat and Potatoes

Last night we dined on grilled flank steak, asparagus and roasted potatoes. Quite the manly meat and potatoes meal; there was not a scrap of food left upon cleaning the dishes. I represent all the ladies out there who can throw down more food than their male counterpart. I usually don't cook a lot of red meat throughout the week. But when I'm craving protein, nothing satisfies the need like a good piece of steak (or burger).

I cut red potatoes into quarters, drizzled canola oil over the potatoes and sprinkled them with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Greek seasoning. Place the potatoes on a baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Be sure to turn the potatoes at least once while cooking, so they don't burn on one side.

Stewart loves asparagus, and these green spears were excellent grilled. With a little charred flavor, they also pack a light crunch. You can grill the asparagus alongside the steak as they are both cooked over high heat. I season mine in olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Keep an eye on the asparagus to ensure they don't burn. About every minute or so, rotate the asparagus on each side. Total cook time is about 5 minutes.

This is a simply delicious meal to prepare in half an hour, and it's full of flavor.

To pair with this well-balanced dinner, I'm thrilled to feature String Cheese on My Eats and Beats. You may remember me talking about String Cheese a few posts back; the lead cellist, Ali Haraburda, is a good friend of Stewart's from Michigan. She and Diana Ladio form the string duo of folk rock with roots in the Celtic music tradition. I've had the pleasure of seeing these two girls perform, and they are amazing. If you'd like to hear more or even want to purchase their music, check out String Cheese's MySpace page  http://www.myspace.com/stringcheesemusic .

More to come this week(end). I'll be gearing up for Independence Day eats!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Under Pressure Combos

Today, I'd like to cash in my "get out of jail free" card. Aside from heating up a bowl of vegetable soup on the stove, I did not lift a single finger in the kitchen this weekend...yikes! This past week, life got a little busier than usual. And consequently my free time to unwind, cook and blog was limited (or non-existent). How I've missed it!

My eating habits, on the other hand, didn't skip a beat since last Thursday. If your family is anything like mine, you know having company in town means one thing: LOTS OF FOOD! We had a plethora of chocolate chip cookies, brownies, pasta, baked ziti, fruit salads and wine to feed a small village. Not to mention the fact that we purchased a box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins each morning to go with our coffee.

So with a full tummy and an empty fridge, I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize some of my favorite food combinations. Try them sometime if you have these items lying around your pantry:
  • Peanut butter and raisins. I love this snack. Just top a spoon full of peanut butter with raisins.
  • Raw almonds and raisins. This is another great snack, although high in calories because of the almonds. So eat small amounts.
  • French fries and honey mustard. Don't ask. I just like it.
  • Salted potato chips and T. Marzetti's Ranch Veggie Dip. It tastes like chips and french onion dip.
  • Mix ketchup and mayo together, and dip your french fries in it. Growing up in Brussels, they actually serve mayo with fries (or frites) instead of ketchup. Which is very good by the way. But I also like to mix both condiments together.
What are your favorite food combinations? Oreos and peanut butter? Baked potatoes and ranch dressing? I'm always interested to learn new ways to pair food. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know :)

Speaking of combinations, one of my favorite collaborations between two artists (or in this case a singer and a band) is Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure". Freddie Mercury and David Bowie are both brilliant and iconic. And I'm sure I will feature them individually one day on My Eats and Beats. This duet is forever a classic.

Ironically, "Under Pressure" is the beat to depressurize my day when it gets hectic. This week we say goodbye to the month of June and hello to July, celebrating the independence of the great US of A and a three-day weekend!

Hope this song and your favorite eats put a smile on your face!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fruit Smoothies and Freshly Ground

“Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it”.
- Julia Child

Today is my 31st post to My Eats and Beats. Which means I have blogged a month's worth of food and music! I have truly loved every minute of it; as I hope you have.

For a split second, I thought I would not have a recipe to feature today. With family in town this week, there hasn't been much free time for me to cook. But fear not my foodie friends! There is one recipe I have up my sleeve that is perfect for concocting before bedtime because it refrigerates overnight and provides you with a healthy breakfast!

These are Alton Brown's Buff Smoothies. The recipe calls for frozen fruit, so it's ideal for blending before going to work in the morning. Plus all the prep is completed the night before. And now that the temperature here reaches 95 degrees by 9 a.m., smoothies are a cool way to get your daily serving of fruit into your diet.

You can substitute blueberries, peaches, strawberries or bananas for any of your favorite fruits. Perhaps you prefer honeydew or pineapple? I also don't care for yogurt based smoothies, so I like that Alton uses grape juice and soy milk for substance.

The South African group Freshly Ground accompanies these fruitful smoothies. Both are colorful, refreshing, energetic and makes a great start to your day. My sister introduced me to Freshly Ground about 5 years ago. She was living in Paris at the time when I went to visit for spring break. The song "Doo Be Doo" woke us up every morning and sang us to sleep each night. I love the lead singer's voice; so beautiful and unique. Recently the band sang with Shakira in "Waka Waka" (This Time for Africa) - the official 2010 FIFA World Cup song. Click here to listen.

Creating this blog has taught me a lot about my passions in life. Here's to many more months (and years) of good eats and beats.
Buff Smoothies:
1/2 Cup grape juice
1/2 Cup low fat or non fat soy milk, plain
4 oz frozen strawberries
4 oz frozen blueberries
4 oz frozen peaches
1/2 banana, or one full banana depending on
Combine all ingredients into the carafe of a blender. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 8 hours. In the morning, put the carafe on the base of the blender. Start at the lowest speed and slowly go up to medium. Blend on medium for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and blend for an additional minute. Serve immediately
*Note: You could easily use fruit that is not frozen, blend and serve immediately.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Key Lime Pie and Janelle Monae

Just finished a late night walk around our neighborhood with Stewart; I needed a little brisk exercise after all the good eats I enjoyed this Sunday. Summer nights are perfect for evening strolls. By 8 or 9 p.m. the sun sets and the humidity retires, only to rise again 12 hours later the next morning.

Today we celebrated Father's Day with my Dad! He's the best. I have to say a lot of my appreciation and love for music comes from him. Growing up, he and I would go see musicals together at the Orpheum Theatre and spend hours sampling music at Borders; afterwards he'd always let me walk away with a new CD in hand.

So for today's festivities, Mama bear mom cooked chicken spaghetti, and I baked key lime pie for dessert. We've decided to call our teamwork in the kitchen "Shake and Bake"...like Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. from Talladega Nights. Now we just have to figure out who will play the role of "shake" and who will be the "bake" in our duo. Filled with pasta and pie, I changed into my bathing suit and quickly wrapped myself in a beach towel, disrobing right before jumping in the pool. And for two hours, I swam and soaked up the sun. A Southern girl can never get enough sun; we need our Vitamin D!

This is the best key lime pie you will ever put to your lips. And I don't say that just because it's my mama's. No one has ever tried this key lime pie that didn't LOVE it, unless you just don't like key lime pies. But how could you not? It's such a refreshing dessert! The fresh squeezed lime juice gives you that mouth puckering tartness, and the crust...the crust is the best part!

Now all I need to do is muster up some self discipline, so that I don't eat all pie in 24-hours. It happens. Not something I'm proud of; but it happens.

Today I want to feature one of my new favorite artists, Janelle Monae and her song "Tightrope". This girl is fabulous. The fitted tuxedos and bow ties are classic, and she rocks the outfit. I wouldn't mind having her dance moves either with the way Janelle glides across the floor. She reminds me of a young, female version of James Brown. I'm loving this song and the music video; it's full of soul and style - two of my favorite accessories.

I continue to read a few chapters of Eat Pray Love each night before I fall asleep, and I'm really enjoying this book. Elizabeth Gilbert has a great talent for storytelling. And this story is certainly a page-turner.

Have a wonderful week!

Key Lime Pie:
Crust -
1 1/4 Cups Nilla Wafers (crushed, but still with some chunks of cookie) *You can use a food processor
3 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp melted butter

Combine crushed wafers and sugar; mix in melted butter until absorbed by wafers. Press firmly into pie pan to form crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool for 15-20 minutes. If the crust puffs up after you take it out of the oven, press it back down with the back of a spoon or measuring cup.

Key Lime Filling -
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
3/4 Cup lime juice
1 Tbsp grated lime peel (1-2 limes)

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk until blended. Pour into pie crust and bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Refrigerate for an hour.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just Peachy with Simon and Garfunkel

I recently stumbled upon a recipe from none other than the granddaughter of Roald Dahl, the best-selling children’s author of all time. I cherished Mr. Dahl’s stories during my childhood and still do in my mid-twenties. His tales are timeless and inspire the human imagination to run wild with stories about The Twits, The BFG, Matilda, The Minpins, The Witches, George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Magic Finger, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…I could write an entire post dedicated to this writer!

But, as I was saying, when I saw this recipe from Sophie Dahl I obviously had to try it. And it is a simply delectable one for roasted peaches. On a separate note, click here if you’d like to read Sophie’s interview with House Beautiful magazine.

And boys and girls, Christmas come early with this peachy treat. The baked cinnamon, brown sugar and butter taste like the holidays had a party in your mouth. But the color and flavor of peaches are perfect during the summer months and make for a great dessert after dinner or for a late afternoon snack.

Tonight I enjoyed dinner and a movie downtown with a friend of mine. We dined on sushi at Bluefin and watched The Philadelphia Story at the Orpheum Theatre. Does it get any better than Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant? Much to my astonishment, I’d never seen The Philadelphia Story (given that my mother is the queen of old Hollywood films). This movie is adorable! And it’s funny! I highly recommend it for a movie night at home.

I also discovered Bluefin’s happy hour, but on sushi rolls not cocktails. Basically, a waiter will bring around a platter of rolls that the chef has made for “happy hour”, and all rolls are $3.  You just grab the plate of rolls that you want from the tray! Such an awesome deal. We each started out with a roll from the happy hour platter and then went for the gusto, ordering the And the Oscar Goes to..., Blues Club, and Bluefin rolls. De-li-cious!! I'm pretty sure I could eat my weight in this stuff.

The Orpheum presents 10-12 Broadway shows each year, as well as Ballet Memphis and Opera Memphis performances. During the summer, they also feature movies on the big screen. And tomorrow it just so happens that they are having their annual Estate Sale (June 18th) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I went last year, and it’s pretty cool to see all the old show posters and props they sell. I bought posters from Oliver and Les Miserables. Now they’re hiding in my attic somewhere instead of The Orpheum’s attic ; ) But it's worth the trip if you have some free time this Friday, perhaps during your lunch break.

You can see the gentleman playing the organ before the film started. This is such a fun thing to do in downtown Memphis.

I hope to go to the Memphis Farmer's Market and spend a little quality time by the pool this weekend. But before that happens, I must leave you with this beat for your listening pleasure; it’s Simon and Garfunkel’s "Only Living Boy in New York". They are such an iconic singer-songwriter duo. And if we're talking about literature, imagination and sweet summer eats, I think this melody compliments each of these ideas.

Have a great weekend!

Sophie Dahl's Cinnamon Roast Peaches with Vanilla Yogurt:
4 peaches, ripe but firm
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or sunflower oil
2 cups low-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
Fresh mint leaves (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and halve the peaches, removing the pits, and place in a small roasting pan. Sprinkle each peach half with a little cinnamon and brown sugar and dot with the butter or oil. Cook for about 10 minutes.
2. While the peaches are cooking, mix the yogurt with the vanilla and agave syrup or honey.
3. Serve the peaches in bowls doused with the yogurt, and garnish with a little fresh mint if you feel fancy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baked Salmon and Punch Brothers

Upon leaving work this afternoon, I drove to Target and invested in a day planner. Meet my new best friend Franklin Covey. I'm a huge fan of Franklin Covey planners and am surprised that I haven't bought one in 8 months! It was time to incorporate structure and organization back into my day job. Thank goodness Franklin is here to help. Buying office supplies reminds me of school days. Although I dreaded the process of registering for classes and the end of summer, I always enjoyed shopping for the fine tipped sharpies in various colors, ball point pens with gel grips and dozens of notebooks.

But, let's talk about food because I have one amazing recipe to share with you. Flying solo for dinner tonight, but still in the mood to cook, I made a scrumptious salmon fillet and garden salad. This meal only takes half an hour from pan to plate, but the flavors coating the fish are sure to please your pallet for hours. I even sat at the kitchen table, not in front of the TV, to ensure I savoured every bite.

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish. I love the pink color, the natural flavor and the texture. Growing up, my mom spread mayonnaise over her baked salmon. And let me tell you; you will never go back to baking salmon without a spread of mayonnaise on top once you've tried it. I recently learned that mayo adds oil to fish which generally doesn't produce that much. The mayo also helps to reduce any murky taste from salmon, or completely eliminates it.

For seasonings, I sprinkled onion powder, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning and paprika on top. Once the salmon came out of the oven, I garnished it with freshly squeezed lemon juice. OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. I love how salmon peels apart in layers, like cutting cold butter with a warm knife.

For the salad, I simply chopped a head of romaine lettuce and added cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and grated Parmesan-Regiano cheese. Drizzle some raspberry walnut vinaigrette over the greens, and you're ready to eat!

My summer reading is moving right along, finishing Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin in 48 hours. Up next is Eat Pray Love. Can't wait to dive into that one!

I paired this baked salmon with the Punch Brothers. The band formed in 2006 and are a modern day, bluegrass group. I've never been a huge fan of country music, which is strange for a Tennessean; but I absolutely love bluegrass music. It's the real music of the country. Check out Punch Brother's web site if you'd like to hear more. They're also on tour this summer and may be headed to a town near you! Here's one of their songs "Rye Whiskey".

And check out "Reptilia", a Strokes cover! Pretty cool to hear it played with a mandolin and banjo.

Hope you enjoy these eats and beats!

Bakes Salmon Fillet:
Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over top of salmon. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan with tin foil, and place salmon on foil. Sprinkle fillets with onion powder, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning and paprika. Bake for 20 minutes or until flaky. Garnish with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading and Feelin Good

This afternoon I went to Davis Kidd Booksellers, cozied up in an over sized armchair and picked out my summer reading. Davis Kidd is my favorite bookstore in Memphis. It's very quaint and a place where I can easily spend hours sifting through shelves of books. Libraries and bookstores are two places where I feel ten times smarter just by being there. I want to wear thick rimmed glasses and sip a cappuccino while reading philosophy and taking notes. It's also a great stress reliever. But perhaps the best part about Davis Kidd Booksellers is the little restaurant inside, Bronte Bistro. Quite the popular spot for ladies who lunch, or couples meeting for brunch after church on Sunday. It most certainly beats the proverbial Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately, I missed out on a meal at Bronte today, but I am happy to report that I have not only one, not two, but THREE books to read this summer. And I'm ready to fly through all of them.

Ironically, but not completely unpredictable, all three books have something to do with food in one way or another. They are Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin, Manny Howard's My Empire of Dirt and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.

I've already started reading Naturally Thin, and I really enjoy it. I'm obsessed with Real Housewives of NYC; and now I'm a fan of Bethenny's book. In all seriousness, she has the right attitude towards food, teaching people smart ways to incorporate food into their life; and it's very achievable. It's not about dieting and denying yourself the foods you love. But rather she teaches you how to create that balance and make smart choices. She's realistic about eating habits and struggles, while still being relatable. Plus, she tells me I can make an exception everyday if it's really worthwhile. And one of those exceptions is a small glass of wine. Now we're talkin'! I love my vino every now and then.

I read a review in the latest issue of Garden and Gun magazine about My Empire of Dirt. Manny Howard has an 800 square foot backyard in Brooklyn which he turned into a farm. His goal is to live only off of what he can produce on this farm for a month: chickens, fruits, vegetables, etc. I can tell this is going to be a fun read and have only gotten through the prologue.

Tonight, I made Bethenny's faux cheesecake. "Interesting" is the first word that comes to mind. Surprisingly, it had just enough sweetness to convince the brain that you are eating dessert, without consuming all the calories. Yet, the texture is very light and airy, 99% of the recipe being ricotta cheese. It just so happened that I had all the ingredients to whip this together in 2 minutes and try it out. I recommend it. You certainly satisfy your sweet tooth, but unlike the real deal of cheese cake, you can eat an entire serving and not feel one once of guilt! Don't misunderstand, nothing beats a slice of New York cheesecake. But this is a good, healthy alternative. I may have slipped in a little more maple syrup than required...shhhh...

Michael Buble singing "I'm Feeling Good" is a true representation of my attitude going into this week. I got to lay out by the pool this weekend. Got a little sun. Got my summer reading lined up. Now I'm officially ready to kick off the summer season. I actually saw Michael Buble in Chicago my sophomore year in college. My roommate and I went to his concert, and he was fantastic. At times, you would have thought Elvis Presley was in the room with the way women squealed over him.

Have a great week!

Bethenny's Faux Cheesecake:1/2 cup whipped cottage cheese (or low-fat ricotta cheese)
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tbs dark chocolate chips or slivered almonds, or anything that goes with the flavor
1 tsp honey or maple syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin. Eat immediately, or cover and chill.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Irish Pirate and Lemon Chicken

Happy Friday! Let's celebrate with a double feature on My Eats and Beats. Plus, the blog is sporting a new design today! Do you like it? A big thank you to Blogger for stepping up their game on the template options.

I for one am happy to see the weekend. A little quality time by the pool, a little sun tan and I'm good to go. We had quite the downpour of rain the last two evenings, but I'm hopeful it has passed. In fact, downtown got drenched right as I was walking out of the office and to the parking garage Thursday afternoon. Water puddles formed in my heels and the hems of my pants were soaked. By the time I drove out of the parking garage, not a drop of rain was to be found. Just my luck. C'est la vie, right?

Well, as it turns out, last night I made a big dinner; and tonight I made a refreshing dessert. So I'm putting the two together to leave you with good eats for Saturday and Sunday.

First off is lemon chicken. I found this recipe in the current issue Southern Living. You could make this dish for a late afternoon lunch or dinner. It's very light and refreshing, relying on butter and fresh lemons to bring out the flavor in the chicken. And it makes for a beautiful presentation without being difficult to make. Serve with a side of rice and vegetables, or even a big salad. It's a great summer meal.

Need an ice cold refreshment to cool you off this weekend? Craving ice cream? Look no further than the Irish Pirate. Make these mint chocolate chip milk shakes with dark rum, or omit the liquor for a non-alcoholic version. Either way, this drink is delicious. I saw this recipe on Food Network and fell in love after seeing "mint chocolate chip ice cream" and "rum" as the main ingredients. Top each serving with a fresh sprig of mint to dress it up. Just a side note...after reading reviews, I omitted the mint extract. Enjoy!

The Irish Pirate really put me in the Celtic spirit. I admit to being that nerd who gets excited when NPR plays Celtic music on Saturday mornings. Actually, one of Stewart's best friends from back home plays the cello in a duo called String Cheese. They are truly amazing and have a fresh spin on classic Celtic music. Perhaps you'll see them on My Eats and Beats one day. But you know me...I always like to ask for permission first :)

Keeping in tune with my minty Irish refreshment I went with The Corrs "Toss the Feathers".
Have a happy and safe weekend!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sticky Buns from the Grapevine

If you ask me why I felt compelled to bake at 9 o'clock this evening, I'm not sure I could give you a reasonable explanation. Perhaps it is because I haven't done much cooking since last Saturday. Or maybe it's because I didn't want to disappoint you without a sweet treat this Wednesday. It is hump day after all. Welcome to the half way point of the week!

If you read my post on Monday, you'll know that I'm trying to lay off the sugar for a little while. An admitted sweet-o-holic, I have no self control when it comes to desserts. But no one said I couldn't make sweets for other people! So I am taking these yummy sticky buns to work in the morning. However, there are only 171 calories per bun; so I wouldn't feel extremely guilty for indulging in one. And I didn't when I ate it at 11 p.m. right out of the oven. Move over little Pillsbury dough boy! I've got a new way of making delectable breakfast eats.

The recipe for these Cinnamon Raisin Sticky Buns comes from Oxmoore House. The recipe makes 9 servings, so chose wisely when you're sharing these yummy buns. Everytime I opened the oven to check on the sticky buns, I want to eat the smell of cinnamon and brown sugar. It is heaven on earth. It's like a sticky version of an Auntie Anne's pretzels.

In other news today was my Dad's birthday! My mom planned to make chicken and rice tonight for his birthday dinner. Well, she actually did make the chicken and rice. But our family black lab managed to prop her two front paws up on the kitchen counter and devour that chicken in its entirety. Needless to say, we did not have chicken and  rice tonight. We had #1 combos from Chick-fil-A instead and boxed cake for dessert. And it sure was tasty!

The beat to compliment these sticky buns is Marvin Gaye with "I Heard It Through the Grapevine". I'm a fan of Gladys Knight and the Pips version as well. Raisins come from grapes. Grapes come from the grapevine. You follow my thought process?

Any one remember the California Raisins commercials? They did one to this song. In fact, one of my best friends used to have the California Raisins' lunch box.

Cinnamon Raisin Sticky Buns:
Cooking spray
1/3 cup raisins
9 (1-ounce) frozen bread dough rolls, thawed (such as Rich's)
1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons light butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Coat a Bundt pan or an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle raisins in bottom of pan. Arrange rolls over raisins.

Combine milk and remaining 4 ingredients in a 2-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until sugar dissolves. Pour over rolls. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake at 375° for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden. Run a knife around outside edges of pan. Place a plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Arriverderci Italian Fest and Cavatini

It is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to this past weekend and the greatness that is Memphis' Italian Festival. It is also with a heavy belly that I look back on the past 4 days and say to myself, "You, dear lady, are getting back on the exercise band wagon"! And indeed I did. I walked three miles this evening and will continue to do so until my liver forgives me and my insides have deflated. But I wouldn't change a second of this year's festivities; as always, it is one of the best weekends of my summer. Good friends, good food, good times.

Oh and how we ate and drank all weekend. When I tell you that we went through 1,000 jello shots, that is no exaggeration. We counted; and we had two team members who were gracious enough to spend sleepless nights making them. Not to mention our dedicated cooks; our team had awesome gravy this year to enter into the contest, and we even placed 7th in the "Anything Italian" competition with lamb spindini. One of the girls on our team also made the best tiramisu cupcakes. No joke. They were a-maz-ing. I'm gonna have to get my hands on all the great recipes. Way to go Holy Cannoli!

Saturday night was my favorite. It's the last night before we tear down the tents on Sunday morning. To feed the troops, I contributed 3 lbs of pasta with this recipe for cavatini. This recipe comes from Stewart's aunt, and it's a favorite in this household. By the end of Saturday night, the tray of cavatini was scraped empty...along with every scrap of food we had to offer.

The closing ceremony for 2010's Italian Festival is brought to you by Connie Francis and Dean Martin with their rendition of "Arriverderci Roma". So long Italian Fest; until we meet again next year. I'll be waiting with fond memories...

Arriverderci festival italiano!

1 (48 oz) Prego traditional pasta sauce
1 lb penne pasta
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese (I use Kraft)
1 large package of Hormel regular pepperoni

Cook pasta. In a serving dish (11"x8") layer above ingredients in the following order: sauce, pasta, cheese, pepperoni. You should have two full layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Meatball Sliders and Dino

I had such a great time hosting tonight’s Italian Fest meeting. We had about 12 team members come by to discuss events, food and drinks over the next three days, and we got our wrist bands for admission into the park this weekend. The evening was spent laughing and joking around, mixed with about 15 minutes of serious team talk and planning. This is the third year for Holy Cannoli to participate in Italian Fest, and I hope we continue for many years to come.

And ya’ll, I made the best meatball sliders. One fellow Cannoli, Tim, said they were the best meatballs he’s ever had; I grinned from ear to ear to hear that. I rarely create my own recipes. But the more I cook, the more comfortable and confident I get in mixing ingredients and making meals from scratch.

For refreshments, Stewart was my counterpart. We had a cooler full of ice cold Bud Light, two bottles of red wine and a bottle of white wine. Surprisingly we went through all three bottles of wine before we put a dent in the beer. I for sure thought the guys (majority of team members) would have gone straight for the beer; but they all drank wine first. Go figure...

I will say that if I could go back and redo anything tonight, I would have made more food! Every piece of bread, every meatball, and every cannoli was no more by 9:30 p.m. As a hostess, you hate to make too much food; but you never want to run out of food. I figured with 12 people and 24 meatball sliders, plus pasta salad and cannolis, we would be ok; but I definitely learned my lesson. “Less is more” does not apply to food. I’d prefer to have too much than not enough.

The Rat Pack is always on the Italian Fest playlist; so I thought Dean Martin’s “Volare” was most appropriate for the featured beat.

Viva Italia!


Julia's Meatball Sliders:
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 Cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 Cup chopped onion
1 large egg
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese

1/2 pound (90% lean) ground beef
12 sweet dinner rolls

Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Stir together all ingredients, except meat. Add meat. With damp hands, roll meat into 12 mini meatballs and place on parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Add ketchup to serve on the dinner rolls.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicken Salad and Otis Redding

This past Saturday, I made chicken salad. I really enjoy making salads in the summer: chicken salad, pasta salad, tuna salad, etc. They’re so easy to prepare ahead of time and provide plenty of leftovers for lunch throughout the week. There are two versions of chicken salad that I make. One is my Sitty’s (grandmother’s) recipe. It’s more of a chicken salad spread. The other I had at a family friend’s house when she hosted a bridal shower for me. It’s delicious and full of various textures and flavors.

The chopped celery, apples and slivered almonds give it a great crunch and the rotisserie chicken has awesome flavor. In fact, I just finished the last helping of chicken salad this afternoon. You can serve this dish over a bed of iceberg lettuce or as a sandwich. It also goes great with a side of sliced cantaloupe.

We’re gearing up for Italian Fest! Tomorrow is the group meeting before the festival officially kicks off Thursday night. And Stewart and I are hosting the meeting! I just took some mini meatballs out of the oven and plan to make little meatball subs with them. Be on the watch for that recipe soon. Our Italian Fest’s team name is Holy Cannoli, so I even bought mini cannolis to serve for a sweet treat tomorrow night.

Now that we’ve talked some eats, let’s listen to some beats. When I say I love Otis Redding; I mean I LOVE OTIS REDDING! He is my favorite male, soul singer. My Dad used to play his greatest hits album in the car when I was growing up; and every time I listen to him sing, I sway my head to the music. His voice is so raw with emotion. For today’s beat I chose “A Change Is Gonna Come” because it’s a great song to let you hear how much soul and power is in Otis Redding’s voice. You just feel it.

June is also Black Music History month, and there’s no doubt Otis Redding left his iconic mark on soul. At the young age of 26, Otis Redding died in a plane crash in 1967. Ironically, that day is my birthday.

Don’t be chicken when it comes to adding the mayo in this recipe; that was my attempt at a very bad joke. Anyhow, just add it little by little until it meets your liking. Start with about two large spoonfuls and go from there. Pretty much with this recipe, you'll just want to eye the exact amounts of ingredients.


Chicken Salad: *Serving size is roughly 4
Two rotisserie chicken breasts, chopped; remove the skin and bone.
3 Granny Smith apples, chopped. You can keep the skin on.
Grapes, halved
Slivered almonds, prepackaged
Celery, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add salt and peppter to taste. It's best served cold.