Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Check out the poll to the left - and answer! I am working on a few new posts this week. Check back soon for the first restaurant review, too!

The Dinner Party

Mom's birthday dinner party, which was a month ago today (yikes), turned out great - lots of friends, food, and even more wine. Above is the menu that my enormously talented sister, Samantha, created. It has become a tradition that every time there is company for dinner at our house (read as: on holidays and Mom's birthday dinner), Samantha makes a menu that is displayed in a frame.

There were 9 guests for dinner, all women, who arrived at 6:30 that night. I began cooking at 10:00 a.m. and finished at 6:29 pm. Totally worth every moment; I spent most of my day trying to keep my mom out of the kitchen because she was the guest of honor, but when it came to making the pasta and then the agnolotti, my "go-go gadget arm" was broken. Her help was invaluable. Even more important was my Dad who was the best sous chef - prepped, cleaned; we all felt a little bad when he went into his office to watch the Brewers game and left us women to our devices.

So how about the food? Let's see. I was quite happy with the way the dishes came out, except for the agnolotti. Agnolotti is another word for ravioli - a filled pasta - referring the shape of the final product. I really made ravioli, but when Samantha put together the menu, I intended to make agnolotti, which are likened to a priest's hat. So, in an effort to make truly authentic ravioli, I rolled the pasta very thin, so thin you could see you hand through it. I even managed to keep it in one piece. Well, when I served the perfectly cooked pasta, all of the filling had come out in the water - my ravioli's popped! There were two blessings in this crappy situation: 1) I didn't realize it until the dish was platted and served; 2) There was a fresh pesto sauce on there, so it was still not bad; and 3) no one said anything. Man was I mad. I had invented the best friggin cheese filling. I used Mascarpone cheese as the base for its creamyness, freshly grated Parmesan and Ramano cheeses, then some grated garlic, salt, pepper - I know it was good because we made three tester ravioli that day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Game on...

I hope you will excuse my absence; I would like to say the reason I have not posted anything regarding the dinner party is because my sister will not respond to my requests for the menu she made - which she won't (call me) - but it is really a combination of that and my new house. Todd and I are frantically fixing it up before I start school because we both know I will not be as much help then.

In the interest of proving that I am alive and we did have fun at the dinner party over two weeks ago, I am sharing my recipe for lemon sorbet, which was served between the second and third courses. I served a small scoop in martini glasses - it was a hit (I must admit I was a little surprised). Don't be intimidated by it; this recipe is so easy.

As a side note, this is not really a sorbet because sorbets are classified by their tartness; this recipe is tastes more like freshly made, perfectly sweetened, frozen lemonade.

(I will post more about the party when I am able to compile all of my thoughts - most of the recipes I made up on the fly - and when my freakin' sister calls me - EARTH TO SAMANTHA)

Lemon Sorbet

2 c. Water
1 ¾ c. Sugar
1 ½ c. Lemon juice
2 1 inch wide strips of lemon rind
Zest from all lemons

In a medium saucepan, heat the water, sugar, and 2 strips of lemon rind in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 2 minutes; leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Chill the mixture in the fridge until cold and ready to make sorbet. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

I bet that if you didn't have an ice cream machine, you could reduce the amount of sugar and make it like a granita. (email me with any questions on how, and I would be happy to explain)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I love dinner parties

In honor of my mama's birthday, I am throwing a dinner party for her friends and family this Saturday. I am very excited and have been planning it for a while - it's an Around the World theme.

I will make sure that there are plenty of pictures and recipies to share next week. Until then - have a great 4th of July!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Monday night I had an overwhelming urge to make chocolate chip cookies. In order to clear my conscience of guilt, I decided that I am really doing myself a favor by cleaning out my cupboards so that I don't have to move it all in a couple of weeks.

Well, I think that most everyone has figured out that when it comes to baking - I am hopeless. I can only hope and dream that my cookies will ever look this good. Besides that fact that I eat more of the dough than I bake, it never turns out. Yes, I am admitting the fact that I screwed up Tollhouse cookies from the back of the chip bag. When I got around to baking them, they turned into flat puddles with chocolate icebergs. Argh.

p.s. I am also admitting that I scraped them off the pan and ate the chunks. Waste not, want not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Maccaroni & Cheese

What's better than macaroni and cheese when you need a little decadent comfort food? What I love about this version is that it tastes rich but it isn't - and its cheep to boot.

As I have said many times before, I am on a budget, and as of last week it became a tourniquet. Despite money being diverted to investments in my future, I must continue to eat like a queen, and queens eat cheese (this is speculation).

Last week, as loan documents were being processed and I was feeling poor, I opened the fridge and despaired that there was simply a bag of cheddar cheese, milk, butter, expired eggs, and a tube of tomato paste. What on earth was I supposed to do?!? After five minutes of dismay - duh. MC. So, off I set, only slightly concerned that the previous three times I had whipped this up I was disappointed at the grainy consistency and the lack of cheesy deliciousness. As it turned out, my lack of ingredients was my savior. I believe that my problem had been that I was trying too hard.

This time, I finely minced one small yellow onion and one clove of garlic, and added it to my saucier with butter and olive oil, over low heat. While that was becoming translucent, I added some salt, pepper and county dijon mustard - just a little because it intensifies the flavor of the cheese (yum), and a little sweet paprika, mostly for color. After about 5 minutes, I whisked in 2 tablespoons of flour and let it cook for a few minutes. Then I added about 1 and 1/2 cups of 1% milk and let that come up to a simmer. (This process of combining fats, like butter, with flour is called a roux, which is a thickening agent.) By the time the sauce reaches a simmer, the roux will be at its full thickening capacity; you may need to add more milk if the sauce is too thick. I then added about 2 cups of cheddar cheese and the sauce was done. This whole process takes about as long as boiling the water and cooking the pasta.

The final product was my best yet - even the leftovers were cheesy and delicious Next time you want Macaroni and Cheese - make your own!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hot weather calls for iced tea

This is more of a tip than a recipe, however, I have fallen in love with iced tea. I was visiting my parents, well about a year ago now, and in the back of the cabinet (I have grocery shopped many times in my parents cupboards) and found a box of Passion Fruit Iced Tea from Starbucks. According to mom, my sister had bought it and brewed a cup for herself - the problem being, the bags are intended to make a pitcher at a time. Mom happily sent it home with me (Sorry, Samantha).

I have really grown to love the stuff, finding it floral and spicy, but quite sour. I added simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled so it incorporates into cold liquid), and it was great. The only thing that makes it better - the frozen strawberries I keep in my freezer for impromptu smoothies used as ice cubes.

P.S. For those of you in the Madison area, Bluephies has the best iced tea.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We are experiencing technical difficulties:

I hope that you will be patient with me as my life is being turned upside down as we speak. Last Friday, I received my long awaited acceptance letter into Marquette University School of Law. Please keep in mind that I submitted my application in November of 2006, and have just received word; this has been a greater source of stress than you know. Additionally, for those of you recognizing the conflict between work and school, I will be attending Marquette’s part-time program and working full-time. (Yes, I realize this will be a challenge, however, feel free to look at the ridiculous cost of law school tuition.)

On Sunday, we found a home we were very interested in. By Monday night, Todd and I had bought a house. I am very excited because it affords me many things. Those of you who know me well, already know the first thing I will do: get a puppy! 

Please do not misunderstand; all of the things I have been pining after are now happening – work, law school, and a home – all within days of each other. After spending that past two years of my life in an excruciating holding pattern of uncertainties and monotony, I have suddenly been thrust into adulthood at lightening speeds. I have never been this excited before.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Papa!
P.P.S. Happy Belated Birthday, Samantha!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Sauce of my Childhood

Meat sauce is one of those basic things you grow out of when your palate changes, and you eventually forget. I was in the grocery store on Sunday debating the amount of energy I had to make meatballs (due to an intense craving) when vague memories of meat sauce surfaced in my brain. It turns out I had forgotten how good this dish is until my first bite. Everyone needs to get back to their youth now and then.

P.S. I am not the only one who thinks this is good (for those of you pu-puing me, I was so tired, I did use the store bought sauce, AND Todd went so far as to crown me the Queen of Sauces. So who's going to buy me a crown?

Riccio's Famous Meat Sauce

½ lg. Yellow onion, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. Lean ground beef
1 tsp. Basil
1 jar Tomato & Basil sauce (Homemade is best, but I also like Classico brand)
1 lb. Pasta of choice


Over medium-low heat in a skillet, add the EVOO, onion, and garlic. Sweat until translucent, about 6 minutes, and transfer to another bowl. Increase the heat under the pan to medium-high and add the meat, salt, pepper, and basil. Brown the meat and break apart with spoon while cooking. Once brown, about 8 minutes, get rid of the excess fat. Return the onion and garlic to the pan and add the sauce. Simmer over low heat until pasta is ready and serve with lots of parmesan cheese – I recommend at least 30 minutes.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dining Week!

I have just found out that Downtown Dining Week will be starting soon here in Milwaukee. Many of the upper tier of restaurants are offering a 3 course dinner for $20.00, and lunch for $10.00!

If you get a chance to come to Milwaukee, this would be a very fun time to do so. Additionally, any of you that come to Milwaukee for dinner without notifying me so that I may join you will be disavowed.

I hope to see some of you soon!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lettuce Wraps

Please don't be scared off by what I am about to tell you.

Monday night I was bored and I wanted to make something I had never done before. I spent at least half an hour going through my cupboards/fridge in a sorry attempt to create something new. I began to digress and wash the bags of lettuce from my most recent trip to the grocery store. As I rinsed the butter lettuce leaves I had an idea - Asian Lettuce Wraps. But I had just used my ground pork in another dish , what would I do? Ah ha! Use the leftover half brick of tofu!

Tofu Lettuce Wraps turned out delicious. I diced the tofu very finely with a minced onion, and chopped button mushrooms, all of which I sauteed in a little toasted sesame oil with Chinese five spice. Then I added a broccoli slaw mix (I also used it as the garnish in the photo) which is shredded broccoli stems & carrot - so I ran my knife through it until it was fine and added about 1 cup of that as well. Then I simmered the mixture in low sodium soy sauce, sriracha (a chili paste available in all grocery stores), rice vinegar, honey (yes Samantha - you can leave it out), and some water. At the very end, I made a slurry of water and cornstarch and added that to thicken the sauce without adding fat. Not bad for a) never doing this before, and b) for not having a recipe.

I also happened to have a bag of edamames (soybeans) in the freezer, so I made those as well. They are so easy; just boil them for 5 minutes and you are done. When you eat edamames, they have salt on them and you dip them in soy sauce and get the beans out of the pod. I skipped the salt after the were cooked, and mixed some sriracha in the low sodium soy - delish!

Let me know if anyone wants the vague recipe I have in my head, or if you have a recipe for lettuce wraps I could look at. I am not as familiar with Asian ingredients/spices yet, so it is harder for me to cook on the fly. I appreciate any help.

Monday, May 14, 2007

That's what I call Saturday night

Late Saturday afternoon Todd had so much studying to do and no quiet place to do it, (Todd has a roommate, I only have one room, and Todd's parents have a house on Lake Michigan just north of Manitowoc that was empty.) So I drove up there, it is just under an hour from downtown, while he studied in the car. Just before we left, I grabbed an armload out of the fridge to make dinner while Todd was studying.

It turns out I made entirely too much food - a dijon crusted, roasted pork tenderloin, insalate caprese, cracked pepper parmesan bread, and garlic sauteed spinach. The bottle of wine is a given*. Then there is the view of the lake - here we are sitting on the front porch. It was such a peaceful dinner; we like to imagine how much this dinner would cost if we were in a restaurant. The figure we came up with made me want to go into the business, but then I remembered my little chop-a-roo of the tip of my finger while working in the kitchen of Johnny D's. (That was two years ago, and I am just now getting feeling back. FYI, do not ever cut off the top of your finger. It sucks.)

Did I mention the fresh strawberries maserated in sugar, heaped over angel food cake, and topped with whipped cream for dessert? Silly me.

Insalate Caprese

Fresh mozzarella cheese

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and stack them with the tomato on the bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Make a chiffonade of basil and sprinkle on the stacks of tomato and cheese. (To chiffonade, stack the leaves, roll them like a cigar, and cut into thin strips.) You can also drizzle with EVOO and balsamic dressing - your choice.

P.S. Like I said, I made way too much food, and we had a ton of this left. So, in the morning, Todd and I toasted two english muffins and warmed up the broiler. We halved the muffins, topped each half with the mozzarella and tomato, melted it under the broiler, and made breakfast sandwiches - YUM!

*Thanks, Dad.
** I will post the remaining recipes another time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"You're very neapolitan..."

...as my sister said during her first visit to my apartment in downtown Milwaukee. We all had a good laugh over that one, because she very obviously meant cosmopolitan.

It just so happens that during my visit home this weekend, we all enjoyed a cosmopolitan out on the deck. I would love to post those photos as well, but Mom and Sam would quite possibly hunt me down, so this little picture of my Cosmo will have to do.


2 parts Vodka
1 part Cointreau
1/2 fresh lime, juiced
Cranberry juice

Add everything into a shaker and shake. If your Cosmo is too blonde when you pour it, just top off with a little more juice. Enjoy! (P.S. These are awesome and deadly)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I spent the weekend in Madison with my family and friends making all kinds of wonderful things to post on my blog, however all of the pictures are being held hostage in my camera on account of the fact that I am too brain dead to remember the cable for the computer. Argh. So please stay tuned, I have not abandoned you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What's with all of the eggs?

So, my adventure in cooking dinner last night was limited to the fastest thing I could make from my meager groceries because Todd had class. Well, it was an egg sandwich - I know everyone is very impressed, but it was better than MC, as it was known when I grew up (macaroni and cheese). If you want to try this culinary wonder - as I'm sure no one else has ever made a variation of this - I will share my wisdom.

I put an english muffin in the toaster and press the lever down. Oooo, ahhhh. Then I heat a small non-stick skillet over med-low heat and rub a stick of butter quickly over the bottom - basically, I've used a sliver of butter. Crack the egg in the pan and season with salt and pepper. With a spatula, quickly scramble up the egg and cook until just set. Add about 3 T. of black bean salsa, 1 T. shredded cheddar cheese and fold ingredients together until warmed through. Put on toasted muffin and top egg with a light sprinkle of cumin. Shovel in face and get back to whatever it is you were doing 5 minutes ago.

Does anyone else do this? What is your version?

Monday, April 30, 2007

25 Hours You Say...

"Worky-work; busy-bee." (Watch "Overwhelmed") Has anyone else seen that commercial? This is me for over a week now, except I really am busy - really, really busy.

I vaguely remember watching a video in middle school about a man that lived in a cave for over one year to study human circadian rhythms - our natural clock - and discovered that without the influence of the sun, we have 25 hours in a day. Don't believe me? This past week, I have been contemplating moving into a cave. I could really use the extra hour.

Please feel free to make requests or to comment on my ideas - I really would like to know if something I post sounds like it could taste like gym socks. I hope to have time to create something this week and tell you all about it, but for now I must get back to my hive.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Experimenting with Quiche

Monday night turned into a much longer experiment than I thought. While at work, during lunch, of course, I had a brilliant idea: "Make a quiche for dinner! It is inexpensive (a huge consideration at this point in my life) and I have the ingredients in the fridge. I would use milk, so it was lower in fat, sauteed onions, spinach, crimini mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Perfect!" So, I told Todd my plan, promising a delicious, cheep and quick dinner, to which he agreed.

I set to work at about 5:15 p.m. I was so convinced that I had oodles of time that I chose to photograph my progress. According to the recipe I had chosen (which I did not follow, except for the volume of milk) it baked in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes. I was so close to dinner!

At 25 minutes, I had egg puddle.

At 30 minutes, I had egg puddle.

At 40 minutes, I had egg goo.

At 50 minutes, I was starving to death and trying to keep Todd out of the fridge.

At 65 minutes, I had quiche!

(Did I mention that it is now 7:15 p.m., and the moment I got home from work I took Benedryl because my allergies were so bad that I couldn't take it any more. So, at this point I am ready for bed, doped up on Benedryl, and could give a damn about the @*&!^%$* quiche.)

The moral of the story is, the quiche was good. We decided not as good as it could be, but a solid first try. I am going to try it again, seasoned more aggressively. I hope you'll stay tuned to the Adventures in Quiche.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Last night I made quiche; I am exhausted. More later.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tribute to Nonnie and Meat Grinders

I have had a craving for this egg salad, the only egg salad I will eat (ever), since Easter. I love this recipe beacuse Nonnie and I would make it on Sunday afternoon out of leftover dyed eggs and eat mass quantities on white bread. Yum.

I finally made Nonnie write the recipe down, apparently on April 20th, 2003. When she refers to the eggs being ground, it MUST be done in a meat grinder. This recipe is when I fell in love with meat grinders. Strange, yes - but oh so fun! I believe the grinder we used was my Great Grandma Kessie's - Nonnie still won't let me have it. So until she does, I will remember this recipe because it does not taste as good without the meat grinder.

[My Nonnie is my grandma - she hates the 'g' word]

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thank you summer weather - where have you been for the past month?

In anticipation of the beautiful weekend in Wisconsin, I am posting this recipe, intended for the grill*. Todd and I invented this dish on Tuesday, and are still VERY impressed with ourselves. We hope you enjoy the weekend and the food!

Grilled Pork Chops with Glazed Onions

2 Boneless pork chops, 1 – 1 ½ inches thick
¼ c. Jack Daniel’s Spicy Southwestern Mustard **
1/3 c. Balsamic Vinegar
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lg. Yellow Onion

Combine the balsamic vinegar, mustard and olive oil until well combined. In a separate container (ziplock bags work well) add the chops and the marinade. Allow to sit as long as possible – between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

While you wait, slice the onion into rounds. Sauté over medium heat until they are golden brown and squishy (i.e. carmelized: this process may take a while, up to 20 minutes. Make sure you keep them from charring around the edges – if so, you’ll want to turn down the heat.) You can feel free to cook the onions ahead of time, and finish the cooking when you add the marinade.

When the chops are ready to grill, remove them and season with salt and pepper, saving as much of the marinade as possible. Grill to desired doneness (duh). Once the onions are to the proper golden brown squishiness, add the marinade to the pan of onions. Allow to bubble and reduce over medium heat until the pork chops are done. (You do not need to worry about using the marinade in the sauce because it is being cooked and will be safe to eat.)

Serve the onions on top of the chops with a salad or good bread.
* If you do not have a badass grill like Todd, with a grill grate on one half and a griddle on the other, you may want to do the onions in a sauté pan.

** You can find this any supermarket; if you do not feel the need to rush out and buy this, I recommend Grey Poupon Country Dijon.

P.S. This is really healthy too: just 1 T. of oil per serving.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Minestrone Soup

I have made this a few times, most recently for dinner on Easter (very festive, I know). I realize that this is not a traditional minestrone, mostly because Dad and I debated the finer points and as it turns out, I am wrong. However, Todd and I are pretty sure its perfect!

I wanted to post this before the last of the chilly days are gone. On a cold afternoon this soup is great because it is hearty and fast. Best of all, the only fat in the whole pot is the extra virgin olive oil, so you can feel better about sitting on your butt all day. I hope that you try this one out - feel free to cut the recipe in half, it makes a ton.

Minestrone Soup
Serves 5-6

1 large yellow onion, large dice
1 lb. whole carrots, peeled and sliced
1 c. Dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
3 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
3 medium zucchinis, diced
¾ bag of baby spinach (or 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped)
1 c. Pastina (small soup pasta – I use DaVinci brand)
4 T. oregano
3 T. basil
1 t. garlic powder
½ t. Freshly grated nutmeg
½ Leftover roasted chicken, diced
chicken stock to cover by 2 inchs

In an large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion, carrot, salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is soft and translucent, but not browned. Raise the heat to med-high and add the wine to deglaze the pan; allow to cook for 1-3 minutes (just until the alcohol is gone). Then add the tomatoes, beans, garlic powder, nutmeg, and half of the oregano and basil. Cover vegetables with chicken stock, cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow soup to simmer until you are ready to eat – I recommend not more than 1 hour – this is a quick cooking soup.

Return to a slow/low boil; add the zucchini, pastina, and rest of the basil and oregano. Simmer until pastina is al dente (check package directions). Stir in the spinach and it’s done. Serve topped with a dollop of pesto (if you have some), grated parmesan cheese and fresh bread.
Remember this is a rustic Italian soup; you can substitute whatever vegetables you have or like. This recipe happens to be the way I like mine. When substituting, keep in mind that you are trying to keep all of the vegetables the same or similar size so that they cook evenly.

** If you don’t have left over chicken, you could use fresh chicken and add it to the soup after you lower it to a simmer, after most of the vegetables have been added. If you boil raw meat, it will become tough, not tender – so make sure you keep the heat low.

Also, when you reheat this soup (it’s even better), you may have to add some stock or water to bring it back to the proper consistency.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Piccata Pesto

Ok, so on my lunch break, I am contemplating the finer points of a piccata dish and how I can convert that into a pesto sauce. Piccata is a sauce served with meat, made of lemon, wine, capers, and parsley. Pesto is comprised of basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Obviously, the parsley would replace the basil, but does anyone have an opinion on the nut? I thought toasted almonds. I'd love some thoughts on this since I have an urge to make it for dinner tonight.

The Beginning

I have newly discovered, and become obsessed with, food blogs. I realize that I am a late bloomer, but they have nonetheless inspired me to start my own. In this saturated environment of fantastic writers and supremely talented photographers, I do not believe that mine will standout, but that it will be an outlet for someone overly charged by food.

I hope to begin posting this week, so check back and let me know what you think.