Monday, January 31, 2011

Italian Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

I like to make these in big batches so I can either freeze them or make meatball sandwiches with the leftovers.  Recently, for Eric's birthday, my brother's girlfriend Cori and I, molded about 56 of them by hand for his party. It was a lot of work but needless to say with a glass of wine (which we needed to drink with straws...classy?-no, sanitary?-yes) it was a lot of fun!

Italian Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 servings
1 1/4 lb meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal)
1 tablespoon adobo seasonings
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose seasonings
1 egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 of a large onion
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meat mixture and add seasonings, cheese, ketchup, egg, bread crumbs, and garlic.  Grate onion right into to bowl. Mix everything together. Heat drizzle of olive oil in frying pan on med-hi heat. Form small meatballs out of mix.  Brown meatballs on each side, about 2 minutes each.  Transfer meatballs to a baking sheet lined with foil and nonstick cooking spray. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through. enjoy!

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

I've always wanted to learn how to make my own marinara sauce. I tried for about a year but could never get it just right.  I knew all the basics, tomatoes, garlic, onion, wine... and I knew if I added sugar, I would get closer but it still just wasn't right.  Finally, one day it came to me! Puree roasted red peppers and add it to the sauce. The peppers gave me the sweetness I needed and added another layer of flavor. Took me long enough, but it was worth the wait.

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 cups
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 15oz can of san marzano tomatoes, pureed
1 15oz jar of roasted red peppers, pureed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine (what you have really, I've used white before)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Italian seasonings
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
olive oil

Heat olive oil in a skillet over med-hi heat.  Add the onions and sprinkle with salt.  Cook onions until translucent.  Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Add wine and reduce for 2 minutes.  Add tomato paste and stir.  Add pureed tomatoes and stir.  Add pureed peppers.  Once blended, add salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, and red pepper flakes. Add balsamic vinegar and stir.  Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

White Chocolate Almond Cream Cake

Yesterday was Eric's birthday so I decided to make him this cake.  I made this on New Years Eve for the first time and it go great reviews.  I was watching Giada one day and saw her make this mascarpone cream that was so easy, I thought I would try and attempt it.  It was wonderful and I've used it on a few different cakes since then.  It really takes a plain box cake mix to a different level.  It came out great again last night and lucky for me there was some left over....and I'll be having it for lunch! :)

White Chocolate Almond Cream Cake
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 12-16 servings
For the cake
1 box vanilla cake mix (along with the ingredients listed on the back of the box)
3 teaspoons almond extract
For the cream
2 4oz containers of plain mascarpone cheese, brought to room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds (save an add'l 1/4 cup for garnish, pulsed in food processor)
For the white chocolate ganache
1 package white chocolate chips (at least 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream

Prepare cake mix as directed in 2 8in round pans, adding almond extract. Let cool and remove from pans. Once cooled completely, (I leave in them in the fridge for 30 mins so I know they are nice and cold) carefully slice each cake lengthwise with a serrated knife to form 4 even layers. Put back in the fridge until assembly. 

Next make the ganache by heating cream over the stove on med heat until it comes to a slight boil. Make sure to watch it carefully.  Add white chocolate chips to a bowl.  Pour ganache over chips and let sit for 5 minutes.  Using a whisk, mix together until blended.  Let cool in fridge until it has come to a manageable consistency. If it's too thin, it will pour too much off the cake layer. I put the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally and it was perfect. 

To make the cream, whip together cheese, sugar, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream with electric beaters until peaks form.  I chill a stainless steel bowl in the freezer so it whips faster. Fold almonds into cream.

For the assembly, take 2 layers of cake and ladle ganache evenly and immediately put it back into the fridge.  Let cool until it hardens (it won't become a hard layer like a chocolate bar, but it will stiffen up a bit) Once ready, take 1 layer with white chocolate and top with 1/4 cream.  Top with a plain layer and top that layer with 1/4 cream. Stack the other white chocolate ganache layer and 1/4 cream.  Finally, place last plain cake layer on top and add the rest of the cream. Garnish with almond dusting.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orange BBQ Flank Steak with Goat Cheese & Fresh Herbs

You wouldn't believe how quick this is to make. The active time on this recipe is about 20 minutes! I would allow time for the steak to sit on the counter for at least 20 minutes before you grill it. This will get the chill out of the meat so it cooks evenly and faster.  I marinated the steak the night before so it would be full of flavor. The sweet orange bbq sauce pairs beautifully with the tangy-ness of the goat cheese. I definitely surprised myself with this one and it was a big hit with the hubby! (any kind of steak usually is :) ) I served this dish with stuffed sweet potatoes.

Orange BBQ Flank Steak with Goat Cheese & Fresh Herbs
by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 servings
1 flank steak
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley 
juice of 1 orange (3 oranges total-see below)
salt & pepper

For the Marinade
1 cup of your favorite plain bbq sauce
juice of 2 med to large oranges
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

The night before-remove any fat from steak and season both sides with salt and pepper. Mix marinade ingredients together and coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The day of-remove steak from fridge and let sit on counter for at least 20 minutes. Chop parsley and set aside.  Heat grill or grill pan to med-hi heat.  If using a grill pan, spray pan heavily with non-stick cooking spray. Once pan is nice and hot, add steak and cook 5 minutes on each side for medium, depending on how thick your cut is.  Flank steak is thicker on one end then it is on the other.  So keep in mind that you will have a variety cooking temperatures.  Let steak rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.  Cut flank steak against it's grain into thin slices. Top with goat cheese and fresh herbs.  Squeeze juice from the orange over the steak before serving.! :)

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I have always wanted to try this.  I still had some ricotta cheese left over from this week so I figured now would be a great time. It came out great and was pretty quick and easy.  It's kind of a healthier alternative to a baked potato with sour cream.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 servings
4 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons of ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean sweet potatoes and poke holes all over each one with a fork.  Put potatoes in microwave on high for 10 minutes. Once time is up, carefully roll each potato in aluminum foil and finish baking in oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Potatoes will be done when they are easily pierced with a paring knife. In a small dish, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.  Mix ricotta with salt & pepper, garlic powder, and nutmeg.  Remove potatoes from the oven and let cool for 2 minutes.  Make a small slice at the top of each potato and push at ends to open up slice.  Season each potato with 1/2 a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 of sugar and cinnamon mixture. Top with ricotta mixture, and season with more salt and pepper if you'd like. Enjoy!

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Flatbread with Ricotta & Parmesan Cheese

It's been some time since I've made a homemade pizza and seeing that I had some leftover ingredients from last night's dinner, I thought I would try something new.  It came out great! It was very filling and pretty quick to make.  This would also make a great appetizer if cut into smaller squares.  

Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Flatbread with Ricotta & Parmesan Cheese
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 2-4 servings, up to 8 as an appetizer
Whole wheat pizza dough
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
1 1/2 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 grated parmesan-romano cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let pizza dough come to room temperature before rolling it out (about 15 minutes) Sprinkle pizza stone with flour, or coat a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle dough with flour, and roll out onto to stone. Drizzle dough with about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Rub oil evenly to the edges.  Poke dimples in the dough with your fingers so it stays flat while baking.  Bake dough in oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in frying pan on med-heat.  Add onions and sprinkle with salt.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and thyme and stir until they become of soft and caramelized.  About another 5 to 7 minutes.  Mix grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper with ricotta cheese in small bowl.  Once dough is done, spread ricotta mixture evenly over flatbread. Spoon over onions and mushrooms, and top with shredded parmesan cheese.  Lower heat to 400 degrees, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let cool and slice up!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken Marsala with Campanelle, Spinach, & Ricotta

I was in the mood for a good chicken marsala one day.  I had never made a marsala sauce before so after researching a few recipes I came up with this one and I was so happy it was a success.  I also had some unused spinach and ricotta, so I thought I would try adding it to the dish and it turned out wonderful!

Chicken Marsala with Campanelle, Spinach, & Ricotta
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat drink and be merry
yields 4 servings
2 chicken breasts, marinated (recipe below)
2 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 oz baby spinach
1/3 cup marsala wine or marsala cooking wine
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 cup half & half, brought to room temperature
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup marinade juices from the cooked chicken
1/2 box of campanelle pasta
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Marsala Marinade
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons marsala wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in a small casserole dish. Whisk together ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover with aluminum foil and let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.  Bake chicken in the oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked through, let chicken rest for 5 minutes and slice into small pieces.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta as directed.  Add the flour to the softened butter, mix well, and set aside. This is a great trick to thickening any sauce. You never have to worry about lumpy flour. Mix ricotta cheese with salt and pepper and set aside. I love ricotta but sometimes it seems bland to me. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add shallot and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure not to let the garlic burn.  Add mushrooms, sprinkle with thyme and saute for 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in marsala wine. Let reduce for 1 minute.  Add beef broth and chicken juices and stir.  Bring heat to med-low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter to pan and whisk until blended.  This will thicken the sauce to a light gravy. Remove from heat and add the half and half. Add spinach to a serving bowl.  Drain pasta and toss with spinach.  Add marsala sauce mixture and toss.  Add ricotta cheese, toss again, and top with shredded parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Monday, January 24, 2011

Breakfast Smoothie

It's true what they say, "you are what you eat".  Ever since I began making this smoothie part of my morning routine, I have noticed a difference in the way I look and feel.  My skin looks brighter, my nails are stronger, and I feel like everyone around me (including Eric) has come down with something and somehow I have remained untouched! (knock on wood!!) 

I know for most people, including myself, that the morning leaves no time for anything but what is truly necessary to get your butt to work on time.  TRUST ME, I am always rushing out the door, arriving seconds before my scheduled time, but I have found the time to make this smoothie for breakfast everyday.  I typically do it in stages: I put the frozen fruit in the blender to let it thaw while I'm in the shower.  Then I fill it up with the rest of the ingredients, blend it, and drink it while I blow dry my hair.  Letting the fruit thaw for a little bit allows for it to blend faster (every second counts! :) ) When all else fails, I pour it into a coffee travel mug and grab a straw and take it with me to work. 

Breakfast Smoothie
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink. and be merry.
yields 2 servings
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mangoes
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/4 cup vanilla rice milk (you can use soy or regular milk)
1/3 cup 100% carrot juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Let frozen fruit thaw in blender for 20 minutes.  Add banana and yogurt and then sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Fill with rice milk and carrot juice.  Blend for 30 seconds until completely smooth.  You'd be surprised-you don't even taste the carrot juice!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food Adventure: The Salem Cross Inn

The Salem Cross Inn

A few months ago at a business after hours event, I was handed a brochure for Salem Cross Inn's Fireplace Feast. As soon as I opened it and saw the mouth-watering photo of prime rib roasting over a fire, I knew this is where I would be taking Eric for his birthday.  Fireplace Feast is just one of the many colonial dining events Salem Cross hosts every year. Guests are invited to join the Inn for a 1700 style feast, all cooked in their grand fieldstone fireplace.  The feast includes not only a 4 course dinner, but also pie making, chowder, and mulling demonstrations and a horse drawn sleigh ride through their snow covered grounds.

As we pulled in, we were greeted by this spectacular view. After dinner we took a sleigh ride through here.  It was 15 degrees today with a wind chill of -1.  It didn't make for the perfect sleigh ride, but it was still breathtaking.  

View of the grounds from the street.

When we walked in, we were directed to the cellar where we enjoyed their famous cheese spread with crackers and a glass of mulled wine by the fire.

Pouring a glass of homemade mulled apple cider and mulled wine.

Their savory cheese spread with mulled wine!

The cheese spread was absolutely delicious and the mulled wine was....well...FABULOUS! I will be making this soon! You could taste the brandy right off the steam before you took a sip and the aroma of the cinnamon stick and cloves was so comforting.

As we enjoyed our wine and cheese, we admired the view of the roasting prime rib on the fire.  I can't event tell you how excited Eric was about it. Prime rib is his favorite.

Look at that!
Now it was time to make the chowder.  The prime rib was removed to rest and a large cast iron cauldron was brought out in its place.  Volunteers were called upon to help make the seafood chowder. Eric was the first to go up (with a little help from me!).  His job was to add the butter that was mixed with spices.

Eric starting off the chowder.

The chowder was made with a bushel of fresh clams, a seafood broth, fresh pollock, potatoes,  a little Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, and cream, which was added last once the pot was removed from the fire.

Adding the pollock to the chowder.

The finished chowder.

After the chowder demonstration, we filed upstairs to the dining room to get ready for the feast! The hostess lets you know where your seats are when checking in.  Everyone is seated on long family style tables.  

The chowder was served first.  It was one of the best chowders I've had.  It was perfectly creamy with a little heat from the Tabasco sauce, and the fish tasted fresh all the way through. 

New England Chowder
Hot sweet rolls and muffins were placed on the table. I snagged a sweet cinnamon & pecan one! It was wonderful!

Now came the star of the show.  The prime rib was served with herb-roasted potatoes, butternut squash, and spinach pie. 

Everything was perfect.  The prime rib was outstanding, no exaggeration! Even the sides were equally delicious! Definitely save room for this feast because if there is any left, they will come around with seconds and you do not want to pass that up! I am very disappointed in myself for doing so.

For dessert, they served homemade apple pie and whipped cream that was made fresh downstairs.  Again, another great success.  It was so good and the cream was like its own dessert. They gave you as much cream as apple pie!

This was a GIANT bowl of cream!

Homemade Apple Pie & Whipped Cream
We could barely walk out of the Inn today but it was so worth it. We definitely plan to attend another dining event at The Salem Cross Inn.  Here is more info about the Inn:

The Salem Cross Inn
260 West Main Street (Rt 9)
West Brookfield, MA
The Fireplace Feast was $55 per person. Book early because the Saturday dates fill up.  I was unable to get a Saturday date which was my first choice.  This event would be perfect for groups of family members or friends due to the seating arrangements.  If you are looking for an intimate setting with a special someone you would be better off eating in their restaurant.  Eric and I sat at a table with 8 other people, but it was nice to meet new faces and share stories.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Multi-grain Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese, & Arugula

This is one of my favorite recipes to make when I have leftover grilled chicken and extra pasta on hand. Pasta salad is mainly a summer dish but I like to eat this one warm so it perfect for a quick and fresh dinner in the winter.  The warm pasta melts the goat cheese so its able to spread throughout the entire salad. I dress the salad with balsamic vinaigrette and add the sweet peppers to offset the strong flavor of the cheese. 

Multi-grain Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese, & Arugula
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 servings
1 cup multi-grain penne pasta
2 cups leftover chicken, cut into small strips
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pepperdew sweet peppers, sliced
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 bunch of arugula, stems trimmed and chopped
balsamic vinaigrette

Boil pasta according to box directions. Meanwhile prepare your vegetables.  Drain pasta and let cool for about 2 minutes so its not too hot.  Warm chicken in microwave if using leftovers.  Mix pasta with goat cheese and then toss in chickpeas, tomatoes, chicken, and peppers.  Lightly mix in arugula and drizzle with vinaigrette. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Avo's Portuguese Vegetable Soup

This is one of my favorite soups that my Avo (grandmother in portuguese) makes.  It is made from very humble ingredients that you probably already have on hand. There are many variations of how to make this soup. Traditionally it is made with beans, turnips, and roasted tomatoes, but I only had potatoes and tomato paste and it came out just fine!

Avo's Portuguese Vegetable Soup
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 6-8 servings
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 small to medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
6 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
salt & pepper

In a large pot of med-hi heat, melt butter and add onions, celery, and carrots. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and saute for about 5-7 minutes.  Add potatoes and stir.  Add water with more salt and bring to a boil.  Continue to cook until potatoes are cooked though, about 20 minutes.  Once potatoes have become fork tender, remove pot from stove and begin to puree with hand blender.  Stop to add paprika and more salt and pepper.  Continue to blend until smooth.  Return pot back to stove on medium heat and stir in tomato paste. Add cabbage and bring to a soft boil.  Continue to cook cabbage in the soup until tender stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Serve with a soft portuguese roll! :)!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grilled Chicken Mediterranean Salad

Tonight, Eric and I enjoyed another quick and healthy dinner. Salad for dinner is usually not my favorite because it rarely fills me up. However, the grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and chickpeas help to make this into a dinner instead of a light lunch. Some marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts would definitely be a great addition!

Grilled Chicken Mediterranean Salad
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry.
yields 4 servings
4 small chicken breasts, marinated in your favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing (about 1 cup) for 30 minutes to overnight
12 oz romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 lb sweet pepper dew peppers (found in the deli), thinly sliced
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
4 oz feta cheese, cut into cubes (I used tomato basil feta instead of plain)
balsamic vinaigrette

Grill chicken on grill pan over stove or on an outdoor grill until cooked through, (about 15-20 minutes).  Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  I tend to pull apart the chicken breast instead of cutting into thick slices.  I feel you get juicier bite-sized pieces this way, but that's just my preference. While chicken is cooking, arrange other ingredients among four plates.  Top with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy with some warm crusty bread! mmm! :)

click here for a printable version of this recipe

Monday, January 17, 2011

Whole Wheat Turkey Tacos

This recipe is one of my favorites because it's so quick and easy to make. Plus... it is packed with clean and healthy ingredients!

Whole Wheat Turkey Tacos
recipe by Sabrina W. for eat.drink.and be merry
yields 6 servings
1.25 lb ground turkey
1-15 oz can black beans
1-15oz can corn
1 pouch of your favorite taco seasoning ( I used Simply Organic Southwestern Taco)
6 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (I used Newman's Own Mild Tequila Lime)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
shredded romaine lettuce
1/2 cup water

Brown ground turkey over med-hi heat in a frying pan. Whisk packet of taco seasonings with warm water and set aside.  Once turkey is cooked through, add taco marinade and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Add corn and beans and stir to heat through. Pile turkey mixture on whole wheat tortillas and top with cheese, salsa, and lettuce. Roll up and enjoy! :)

click here for a printable version of this recipe


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