Monday, August 16, 2010

BBQ Chicken Dinner

One of the things I love most about summer, besides the AWESOME weather, is grilling outside! Ever since Shaun and I bought our house a few months ago, we have spent as many nights as possible using our new grill. The one problem we have is that we don't typically eat dinner during the week until 8pm because of our work schedules. I'm sure that many of you can sympathize with us. For that reason alone, I try to take shortcuts and use some pre-made ingredients to make life easier. I also love trying new items that I see on the shelves in supermarkets - such as this new BBQ sauce from Bull's-Eye. That is what we used to marinate chicken in the night before and boy was it delicious. Highly recommended - tangy, sweet and spicy all at the same time!

Now, while Shaun is manning the grill outside, I need something to do with my time... chicken thighs typically take at least a half hour to cook on the grill so I thought up a few recipes to make in the kitchen in the meantime... I cooked up some rice, corn muffins and a Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad with Balsamic Glaze. The glaze was extremely hard to make...

Yeah right! The balsamic glaze requires only one ingredient - balsamic vinegar! The thing you do need is time - you put the vinegar in a saucepan and let it boil and simmer away for about 15-20 minutes until it gets very thick. Then you need to let it cool because after all, you do want a cold salad right? Nothing says summer like fresh vegetables from the farmer's market! Here is a shot of Shaun and I's version of a BBQ chicken meal - how does it look?

Tutti Mangia!

Summer-Time Sides

I love looking up new recipes and storing them in binders - hence where these next two recipes came from... One night last week Shaun (the boyfriend) and I decided to grill up a few sausages for dinner and I thought it would be best to use up some of the vegetables I had in the fridge from that weekend's food shopping run. I decided on a Cherry Tomato and Lemon Salad and Penne with Grilled Zucchini, Ricotta Salata and Mint. Both recipes were adapted from the Epicurious website.

The Cherry Tomato and Lemon Salad was actually very simple to make and amazingly delicous after it marinated in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes! Each bite was bursting with lemon flavor, but not sour at all because of the sugar added in the beginning. I personally adore cherry tomatoes and the sweetness they bring to summer so this recipe is one that I will make over and over again. Maybe next time I'll really change things up and add it to a Brunch Menu. It is so light and refreshing so why not!? The Epicurious website suggests great menu using this recipe that you might see on this Blog one day.

2 large lemons
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (3 cups), halved or, if large, quartered
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Finely grate enough zest from 1 lemon to measure 2 teaspoons. Trim ends of both lemons, then stand lemons on a cut side and cut peel, including all white pith, from lemons with a sharp paring knife (discard peel). Cut segments free from membranes, then cut segments crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Toss lemon segments gently with sugar in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients and zest, then let stand, covered, at room temperature 15 minutes (to allow flavors to develop).

The Penne with Grilled Zucchini, Ricotta Salata and Mint was less impressive... I like each of the ingredients used separately so it seemed like a no-brainer to make this, but apparently I do not like these ingredients mixed together. Honestly, I would even say it was a bit bland. Next time I think I'll skip this recipe and just serve Grilled Zucchini! That was the best part of the recipe in my opinion. I'll also be saving my mint for Mojitos only, thank you very much.

2 pounds small zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil (for brushing)
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
2 pinches of dried crushed red pepper
1 pound penne or ziti pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta cheese; about 3 ounces)*
*Ricotta salata is a firm cheese with a mildly salty flavor

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Arrange zucchini on rimmed baking sheet; brush all over with oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Grill zucchini until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to work surface; cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place in large serving bowl. Add vinegar, mint, and crushed red pepper; set aside. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Add pasta to zucchini mixture, then add 3 tablespoons olive oil and ricotta salata and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tutti Mangia!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nectarine and Blueberry Cake

I absolutely LOVE baking anything! I'll take any excuse... so when my fellow co-workers got on my case about not posting any blog entries for a while, I make them a cake. That did shut them up for a little while because it was pretty darn delicious but I'm due again.

Regardless of the future, the dessert I chose to make for the team was perfect for summer! I had bought blueberries a little while back from the farmer's market in Boston and froze them to have on hand for times like these. The nectarines I bought that week in the food store... and that begun a search for desserts that involved both of these juicy fruits. This particular recipe I pulled out of the "Home Tested Binder" (a binder collection filled with recipes I collect from the Internet). This recipe was adapted from

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large nectarines, coarsely chopped
2 cups fresh blueberries
Garnishes: sliced nectarines, fresh blueberries, lemon rind

This is what the cake batter looked like before I put them in the oven:

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears. Add vanilla, beating just until blended.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat batter at low speed just until blended. Gently fold in nectarines and blueberries. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Spread 1/2 cup Cream Cheese Frosting evenly on top of one cake layer; top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining Cream Cheese Frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish, if desired.

These are the cakes when they came out of the oven:

I think the star of the cake was the homemade frosting though, it was TO-DIE-FOR!

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar (I may have used about 6 cups, hard to say HAHA)
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (I excluded this because I did not have a fresh lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in grated lemon rind and vanilla.

Tutti Mangia! That is my new ending for each blog post - what are your thoughts? It means "everybody eat!" in italian. I thought it was fitting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cafeteria - 279 Newbury St (Back Bay)

A few weeks ago I went to Cafeteria Boston on Newbury St with a bestie of mine (aka best friend, for future reference hehe). We spent a beautiful summer afternoon walking around and window-shopping before stopping for lunch. Sorry for the delay on this post! As I've mentioned before, I was on a 10 day business trip so older posts will be posted before the newer ones!

I have eaten at this restaurant two other times before and I have to say it has not been busy any time I've been in there. We decided on this restaurant that day because my bestie had a gift certificate that she wanted to use. The first time I was there with two friends I ordered the gazpacho (which is no longer on the menu) and a salad. The second time I was there with my boyfriend we both ordered burgers which were amazingly good and came with parmesan fries. Those fries are TO-DIE-FOR! That day, I ordered the Organic Mixed Greens which came with mesclun greens, Vermont goat cheese, tomatoes and herb vinaigrette.

She ordered the Chef's Salad Bowl which came with mixed luttuces, smoked ham, Swiss, egg, cucumbers and tomatoes with red wine vinaigrette. She swapped out the smoked ham for grilled chicken.
Overall, my experiences there have been good but there are plenty other restaurants on Newbury St or just in Boston in general that I would still like to try out! View my post on Yelp for the same review and more to come! Thanks for reading everyone!

(I really have to think of a more creative "ending line" for my blog posts - any suggestions?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mom's 50th Birthday Party

I know, I know, it's been a while since I've posted but I got busy! Two weekends ago I was in the middle of a "work" road trip for 10 days and in between I went home to Long Island for my mom's 50th birthday party! We had it in our backyard with about 70 guests to celebrate her big day. Guess who catered it?? Thats right - yours truly, along with MamaDukes, my Aunt Charlene and my mom's best friend Maria. We had quite the buffet menu planned for that HOTT summer day and took pictures of a few dishes!

Sausage, Onions and Peppers

Baked Ham
Rice with Veggies
Eggplant Parmesan
Marinated Grilled and Breaded Chicken Cutlets
2 Heros (as we call them on LI) - 1 American and 1 Italian
Spaghetti Pie
Green Salad
Potato Salad
Corn Salad
Antipasto Macaroni Salad
And for dessert -drum roll please!
2 Ice Cream Cakes compliments of TCBY
Carrot Cake
Chocolate Cupcakes
2 Blueberry Sour Cream Cakes
2 Strawberry-Banana Jello Pies

Happy Birthday MAMA! I love you!
P.S. If anyone wants any of the above recipes, I can pass them along - just leave a comment!
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