Giada’s Green (and GOOD) Carbonara and Some Olive Oil Adventures

First, I’m going to torture you with stories of my day.  Then I’ll point you towards super delicious food.  It looks like this: But before I get to the food… It was a nice day today.  I had a short … Continue reading

A Tale of Two Ravioli Recipes

We made a new-to-us ravioli recipe last night–Giada’s Ravioli Caprese.  We’re partial to all things Capri-related, especially if basil is involved.  So what were the winning points of this recipe?

Well, the flavor was awesome.  Always an important feature for a recipe.  The inside was surprisingly filling, thanks mostly to the chicken and partly to the ricotta cheese (yes, whole milk ricotta was a winner).  The topping was light and bright and wonderful, thanks to the light and bright fresh basil and lemon zest on top.  Yum.

So if you’re looking for a hearty yet not overwhelmingly heavy ravioli dish for the summer, you’ve found it.  I believe that our only edit was to use half whole-wheat flour.  Surprisingly, the pasta survived that change.  Yay for a slightly healthier pasta that still tastes good!

photo-13You might remember that I made another type of ravioli not too long ago.  It was Wonton Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach, and it was also nice and light.  The main differences (other than the obvious sauce thing) are in the guts.  The wonton option is a delicious, flavorful vegetarian option.  Well, it’s vegetarian if you ignore the optional sausage addition. The Giada option has more protein, which is a win.  It also maintains the awesome flavor level of the other recipe, so it’s really a double win.  It’s just a question of whether you want spinach or chicken as your main feature.

ravioliMy recommendation(s)?  If you’re in a hurry, try using wonton wrappers for either recipe.  They get the job done, and they’re a nice, thin pasta.  If you want to make things healthier (read: use whole wheat flour) and a different size or shape, make your own pasta a la the Giada recipe.  Scott is adventurous like that, and I’m glad he’s there to roll out pasta for me.  I made the stuffing.

Snack Attack

Scott made us a gourmet dinner last night.  It was Giada’s Pork Chops Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Spinach.  The official version looks like this:

photo from

photo from

Ours was rustic-looking but delicious.  I made the guts of the stuffing, and Scott did the hard work of actual stuffing and cooking.  I think we would both make this again.

The only hitch in the story is that I got home at 8:30, and Scott got home at 10-ish.  So yeah, dinner happened at 10:42.

What’s a girl to do between 8:30 arrival at home and official dinner at 10:42?  Snack!  And not the healthy kind.  The super tasty kind.

This is what we call “not a recipe.”  You take a flour tortilla and throw on some grated cheese.

Super Fancy Exhibit A

Super Fancy Exhibit A

Then you heat that super fancy concoction.  I used a toaster oven, but you could use a real oven.  The microwave just makes the tortilla soggy, so I wouldn’t recommend that unless it’s your only option.  Right before you proceed to the eating stage, it looks like this:

Super Fancy Exhibit B

Super Fancy Exhibit B

And that’s all, folks.  Gourmet and not-a-recipe make a killer combo for the day.  Happy pre-Easter!

See-What’s-In-the-House Tuesday

I came home last night to a very exciting scene. This is what the bottom half of our staircase looks like:  carpetThis is what the top half looks like:

stairsDo you like how I didn’t vacuum the carpet for months so the before picture looks really really grimy?  Yeah, that was on purpose.

Seriously though, Scott started taking the carpet off of our stairs yesterday, and I was so happy.  So happy!!  I had all of these mental images of horrible boards underneath that carpet and all of the work it would require to make them into nice, painted wood stairs.  But no, not this time.  This time, it’s some heavy duty staple removal (thanks, husband), some sanding, some painting, and voila!  Yay!!!

I do think it’s fair to pass on what I learned in preparation for the truly horrible stairs I thought we might find.  I really like this lady’s creative approach to gaps in her stairs and other problems that probably would have made me cry: Southern Hospitality Blog.  And I like the careful, detailed instructions here (and the stained treads): Tempting Thyme.  We’ll probably be going more or less the route of the second instructions, although we don’t need to install new risers.  Whew.

To go with the theme of using what we have, we had a very “What’s around?” type of dinner.  It started out with this recipe from Giada for a simple steak salad.

saladWe went a little simpler than her lettuce suggestions with a bunch of arugula and a bag salad mix–no endive this time.  Then we threw in some yellow and green peppers from the veggie garden and some Kalamata olives (because why wouldn’t you?).  It was good.  The red onion slices with a bite of steak and Gorgonzola… mmm!  And all of the veggies just mixed in there perfectly.  I love a salad that has more going on than my normal lettuce and tomato base.  Giada’s dressing is good, too, if you’re looking for a nice homemade dressing recipe–plenty of flavor, with just enough honey to balance the red wine vinegar and the lemon juice.  I still like my mom’s homemade salad dressing the best of all, but it’s good to try something new every once in a while.

Birthday Week Spaghetti

Spaghetti doesn’t sound fancy, right?  Well try this recipe: Giada’s Spaghetti with Beef, Smoked Almonds, and Basil.

unnamedThis made the birthday week menu mostly by virtue of its beef content, but I think I ended up loving it more than the birthday man.  The sauce is technically more like an Italian salsa (read: no cooking!), and it was so light and summery and just plain wonderful.  The lemon, basil, and tomato combined into this perfect sidekick to the pasta and steak.  I never would have thought this dish would feel light, but it does.  Basil + maters + lemon + steak = best.  The pasta doesn’t hurt anything either.

This is reason #652 to plant several basil plants at your home.  It’s inexpensive to throw 2 1/4 cups of basil into a sauce when you’ve got buckets and buckets of the stuff right out your front door.  I would be less inclined to make this dish if I had to buy 2 1/4 cups of basil from the store.

You could make friends with people who have thriving basil plants.  That’s a solid secondary option.

Thanks, Giada ( for your Gorgonzola burgers)

Okay, let’s say you already know an amazing recipe for blue cheese burgers.  But you want more.  And maybe you want grilled tomatoes instead of fancy onions on your burger.  Maybe you even want to use Gorgonzola instead of blue cheese.  Well, you’re in luck, my friend!

We tried one of Giada’s newer recipes last night, and let me just say that she hasn’t lost her touch.  We did add about a minute of grilling time per side on the burgers, since we like our burgers cooked a little bit past medium rare (heresy for a steak, doesn’t bother me with a burger).  Other than that, we followed the recipe as closely as possible.  The grilled tomatoes with paprika and the Gorgonzola all melded into this warm, juicy sauce on top of the burger, and the arugula provided a tiny hint of crunch.  Mmm.  They looked very much like this:

photo from

photo from

Oh, and I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know until this week that Gorgonzola is the slightly sweeter cousin to blue cheese.  There’s just a tad bit less bite to Gorgonzola, which was lovely last night, if I do say so myself. 

Post-Holiday Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

After returning from Christmas in Colorado with family (tasty food post to come from our CO adventures soon, I promise), my first act in our house was to try to clean up our kitchen.  Somewhere along the line, I forgot how nice it is to start cooking in a kitchen with clean counters and no back log of dirty dishes piled up.  But my mom’s pristine kitchen (most of the time) inspired me.

Then before I knew it, it was time to make some dinner.  Enter turkey leftovers in the freezer.  We liked our Thanksgiving turkey so much that we put a few more in the freezer for later in the winter.  Great price per pound, tasty, easy to cook in one giant lump.  We also found a fresh turkey in our fridge/freezer thanks to some hunting friends.  Scott cooked up that smaller fresh turkey before heading out of town.

Yesterday, I used what we had around (plus a few potatoes and some frozen veggies from the store) to make my own version of Giada’s “Thankful Shepherd’s Pie.”  I would tell you exactly how I changed the recipe, but I think you can really adjust it to suit your needs.  I didn’t have any fresh herbs, so I used dried.  I didn’t have fancy cream or milk, but 1% worked just fine.  I didn’t have any leftover gravy (all gone ages ago), so I used milk and flour to make a rue with the cooked onions.  You get the idea.  Use what you have, enjoy the tasty results.

ImageYou can tell that with all of those adjustments, our pie doesn’t perfectly resemble the original recipe, but it was delicious anyway.  I’m sure the original recipe is even better.  Give it a try sometime.  Or make your own version.  Mmm.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s freshly grated parmesan cheese melted all over the top of the mashed potato topping?