Thursday, May 28, 2009

If I wasn't Italian, I would probably want to be Greek...

Over the years, I have found that Italians and Greeks seem to share the same extreme passion for food. Although each have their specific specialties, there are so many similarities between the two cuisines and if you love one, you most likely love the other. My love for Greek and Greek- inspired food might stem from growing up in Northville, Michigan, often making trips to Detroit's historic Greektown. (side note: my two favorite lovebirds, my parents, not only spent many romantic dates in Greektown but the church they said their "I Dos" is located in Greektown as well! It's probably safe to say that the magic of what is now the Nido family started with a little Greek spice!)

Thanks to my favorite Charlotte restaurant, Ilios Noche, I fell in love with their Greek Country Salad. Simple ingredients with more than a simple flavor. Its a perfect component to any meal, especially in the summer when tomatoes and cucumbers can be found fresh in one's garden. I made my own little version inspired by Ilios and it was divine. Ashley and I enjoyed this last night with our turkey burgers and moroccon cous cous. Such a healthy little meal (with our gorgeous new center piece and table runner courtesy of Pier 1!)

Greek Salad...

Kalamata Olives
Red Onion
Feta Cheese
Sea Salt/Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar

Cut the tomato and cucumber in large chunks, sliver the red onions and tear kalamata olives in half. Toss in as much feta as desired. Sprinkle with cracked pepper, salt and oregano then drizzle olive oil and red wine vinegar. Mix up all of the Greek goodness and let it marinate in the fridge slightly before eating.

After doing some research, it appears as though making Greek Salad like this is the tradional method used in most areas of Greece. If you want to jazz it up and add some lean protein to make the salad more of a complete meal on its own, grilled chicken is an excellent addition.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Because I am Nina, and my excitement level about good eating (and life in general) is slightly more intense than the average person, I find that I typically enjoy "best EVER" food moments several times a week. A "best EVER" moment would be when I get so elated after eating something that I shout it from the rooftops and share with everyone I know that I have digested something that tastes as if it were prepared in a kitchen of angels.

I have tried to limit the times I label a culinary adventure as a "best EVER" but sometimes I just cannot help myself. The recipe that I am about to provide you, however, is truly at the top of my list. When I say that it is my most favorite dessert EVER, I mean that nothing can top it (besides my birthday angel food cake- Nido style, which also ties in first). We had our Nido family Memorial day celebration yesterday and I was lucky enough to sneak TWO helpings! My mom has been making this since 1992 and we are only treated to this twice a year-on the red, white and blue holidays. The patriotic colors in the dessert are perfect for Memorial Day and 4th of July cookouts! The sweet and salty mix is the perfecet flavor combination and is like eating heaven straight off of a plate. Dessert is the grande finale of a meal and nothing gets me more excited than this. The technical name for this dessert is "Cherry Blueberry Dessert Squares" but that sounds so plain to me. I have tried to dig into my creative self and come up with something scrumptious and exotic sounding but I can't even put a proper title on these treats because they are THAT good. I love this dessert so much. From the sidewalks to the sky and back down again. I can't even think of any more wordy ways to properly describe its perfection. Just make it and eat it. Trust me. The only word that seems even remotely fitting I learned from Mary Poppins; Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And even that isn't enough.

Cherry Blueberry Dessert Squares
(Pillsbury's Picnics & Potlucks, June 1992)

1 1/2 cups finely crushed pretzels**
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 (4oz.) conatiner (1 1/2 cups) whipped topping
1 (3oz.) pkg. black raspberry JELL-O
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 (16 oz.) pkg frozen blueberries
1 (21oz.) can cherry fruit filling
15 miniature pretzel twists (to garnish)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups pretzels, 2 tablespoons sugar and margarine, mix well. Press in botton of ungreased 13x9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, cool.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until well blended; fold in whipped topping. Spread evenly over coked crust. Cover; refridgerate 30 minutes.

In medium bowl, dissolve JELL-O in boiling water. Stir in cold water and frozen blueberries until mixture is partially set. (If necessary, chill until partially set.) Spoon gelatin mixture over cream cheese filling. Cover; refridgerate about 1 hour until set.
Carefully spoon cherry pie filling evenly over blueberry mixture. Store in refridgerator. Garnish each serving with a pretzel twist just before serving.
**Pretzels can be crushed in a food processor bowl with metal blade.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dean & De-Lightful!

As mentioned in my last post, this week has been a bit scattered which has not left much time for the peace and love in my life. Alas, if life is always rainbows and butterflies, you don't appreciate it as much either. I always say that God never gives you anything more than you can handle at once! With that being said, as I am handling a bit more work than is usually the case, my Friday has been brightened thanks to Omni Hotels and their kind visit, I am finding myself biting into the most delicious sandwich creation from Dean & Deluca. I know that the sandwich is one of the most basic food creations that we as humans enjoy however, I have come to the recent realization that the sandwich is often under appreciated as I believe it to have the potential to take on the role as a culinary masterpiece!

I would put sandwiches in the category of what I call "interactive foods", or foods that you can personalize and build and really create something special with your own personal twist. I adore a well built sandwich and when I eat one, I want something healthy, creative and bursting with flavor. If I am going to compile some tastiness in between two pieces of bread, I want it to be exceptional. My dad always says, "you don't just make a sandwich". Dean and Deluca did not fail to deliver in their creation that I enjoyed for my lunch today. As I bit into my lunchtime sustenance, I found smoked turkey piled just high enough, leaf lettuce and perfectly red beefsteak tomatoes sliced just right. Also accompanying the turkey and its counterparts were fresh pieces of creamy brie cheese which added the perfect creamy consistency and bold flavor, yet not so overpowering as to hide the ingredient that created the whole essence of the sandwich; apricot mustard. Never in my life have I heard of such a thing and I just might have to go out and find some to keep in my kitchen because the slight sweetness that was glazed on each side of sourdough bread was nothing short of exquisite! All of these ingredients sandwiched between two pieces of freshly baked sourdough bread with a flawless crust.
(May I also note that Dean & Deluca has, by far, the best presentation of a boxed lunch that I have ever seen. The sandwich was paired with fresh fruit, pasta salad and Dean & Deluca's famous dessert bars. The nice finishing touch? Miniature salt and pepper shakers for your convenience!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Peace Love & Mountaineers!

Ciao Amicis!

Let me first apologize for my lack of blogging as stress has entered my cube and I have had little time to devote to my new project. While I have been gone though, I have not ceased to enjoy some tasty delights and fun travels! The middle Nido girl is now the second to leave Boone with a college degree from our beloved Appalachian State University! I think it was a reality check to watch Andi walk across the stage and realize I am actually an adult now and did that two years ago! Because Andi and I were lucky enough to spend two whole years in Boone together, I decided to take a little trip up the mountain last week for some fun. Being up there made me miss the mountain air so much! Although I am biased as Boone is where I spent 4 wonderful years as a Mountaineer, I think its a place where you can remove yourself from everyday life and enjoy time to relax with some spontaneous adventure! While there, I ate two of my most favorite meals ever that I grew to love during my 4 years at ASU.

I may be health nut, but every now and then I just may surprise everyone by eating something that is not on the typical Nina pallette. Like every normal person, I am a huge fan of comfort food and a little something that sticks to one's ribs never hurt anyone, right? Upon my arrival Thursday night, we enjoyed Woodlands BBQ in Blowing Rock with our dear friends the Geis brothers ( now CANNOT make fun of my blog because you have received a special shout out). This meal reminds me of my days long before college when all 5 Nidos would hop in the minivan for weekend fall getaways in Boone and Blowing Rock. This was our first true love for Southern food. I enjoyed my usual Pulled Pork BBQ Plate with Cole slaw, green beans, fried okra and hush puppies. Such a treat!
The next favorite meal? Melanie's! If I could recommend one place for anyone to try in Boone it would be this little gem. Tucked away on King Street. This food is straight from breakfast heaven and I have yet to find a better breakfast to start the day! Not only is everything fresh, but it's all organic, too! Andi and I enjoyed the omelette special. 3 eggs whipped to perfection with zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, garlic and provolone, seasoned roasted potatoes and homemade english muffins with apple butter so sweet you can eat it with a spoon for dessert! Not to mention the perfect blend of coffee from Boone's own local Espresso news. And after walking around Boone on a beautiful day, the perfect little pick me up...White Chocolate Mousse frozen yogurt swirled with Raspberry Sherbet from a waffle cone with sprinkles none the less!
On Sunday in celebration of Andi's gradution, all of the Nidos plus my sweet Grandma Appicelli and my wonderful Auntie Annie & Uncle Denis (, too should re-think this whole blogging thing as you also received a special recognition on the land of Peace Love & Food!) who flew in from Michigan (plus some favorite Boone girls) enjoyed a beautiful graduation/Mother's Day brunch at the Broyhill Inn. This was truly a feast and so much to eat! The brunch bufffet spread had everything from Crepes with fruit, caprese salad & quinoa (look it up this is a whole grain that also has TONS of protein) to beef tenderloin, smoked salmon and my personal favorite, creme brulee. Congratulations, Andi!

(note about the picture above: Andi swears her arm looks like an ostrich and told me to take it off but because I love her and beause I think she is beautiful no matter how much taller she is than anyone I know, I am keeping this gorgeous picture posted!)
Now, I know that this has nothing to do with food, but I came across this little "monthly mantra" in my June issue of Shape and I think it's worth thinking about. After spending a wonderful weekend with amazing friends and family, I find that I get extra lovie dovie and want to sprinkle a little love:

"I can choose to be happy- Enjoying your life isn't something that happens while you just sit there; it's the result of small decisions you make all day long. You can choose to add a favorite necklace to your outfit in the morning or to spend your evening with people who make you feel good. This month, remember that while a lot of what happens is beyond your control, your happiness is not. It's your choice, what's it going to be?"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birthday Dirt

Hola! Happy Cinco de Mayo! It also happens to be a special birthday today and I decided what better way to celebrate then with a little something delicious from the past. I used Mark's birthday as a perfect excuse to have fun in the kitchen and whip up something fabulous. It is always all about the food, after all! Now that I think of it, think this recipe could almost be considered retro! Laura made this last week for Mary Katherine's Big Ol' birthday BBQ and it was a winner! Definitely the best tasting dirt cake that I have ever put in my mouth.

This recipe has the dirt served in small individual cups. As you can see, I was lucky enough to come across kids' beach pails from Target and filled those to make two larger servings of dirt. (not pictured is the shovel that I bought to use as a scoop!) I would also like to note that the gummy worms I found at Harris Teeter are the best gummy worms EVER (made by Shari Candies). They are the perfect consistency and have a fruity flavor that bursts when you bite into them. Ashley Erb would have to agree as we had a special taste testing of the dirt last night in our kitchen! We dissected each worm's flavor! (Yes, these worms are so great that they deserve a few descriptive sentences detailing their exceptional qualities. Good gummi worms are hard to find and are highly underrated).


1 package of Oreos, crushed
2 cups of milk
1 package of Jello chocolate instant pudding mix (4 serving size)
1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip topping, thawed
1 package of gummy worms

*note: I suggest doubling this me, you will want MORE!


-Put cookies into a zipper style bag and close tightly.

-Using a rolling pin, roll and crush the cookies until crumbly. Set aside.

-In a large bowl, pour the milk and chocolate instant pudding mix.

-Whisk well until all of the pudding mix is dissolved.

-Let stand 5 minutes.

-Add the Cool Whip and 1/2 of the crushed cookies.

-Stir until well blended.

-Place a large spoonful of crushed cookies into the bottoms of the plastic cups.

-Add the pudding mixture on top of that until the cups are 3/4 full.

-Add 1 large gummy worm so that it is half in the cup and 1/2 hanging out of the cup.

-Spoon in more crushed cookie around the worm to hold it in place.

-Serve chilled. *You can use as many worms in the pudding as desired.

If you want to take a new summer twist on the classic dirt recipe, you can substitute with vanilla pudding, Nilla wafers and gummy sharks for a beach themed "Birthday Sand"!

Don't we all like to pretend like we are kids? I think I do that at least 5 times a day but then again I might be an exception to the rule. This delectable treat is guaranteed to make anyone smile! Special thanks to Lil Till for sharing her perfect recipe! I can't wait until someone digs into this morsel of chocolatey goodness tonight!

Monday, May 4, 2009

My morning cup of joe

I am a self proclaimed coffee girl and although I truly enjoy the taste and act of drinking coffee, I feel that my day has not received it's proper jump start if I skip my morning cup! Over the years, I have developed a more keen sense of taste and appreciate both a high quality coffee bean as well as the proper proportions to enjoy the perfectly brewed cup!

To make the perfect cup of joe, I always use my trustworthy coffee scoop that my dear friend Ashley Dawson surprised me with one Christmas back in college. This scoop is equal to a tablespoon. I use 1 heping scoop per two cups of coffee (go by the cup marks on your coffee pot), plus one extra for good measure. (example: If you normally make 8 cups of coffee in the morning, this would be 5 scoops) I find that these proportions create a cup that is not watered down or as strong as a fine Italian espresso, but still packs that extra punch you need to get going!

I like to mix up my coffee and have found several brands at Harris Teeter that are all in a great price range and are high quality. My absolute favorite is Dunkin' Donut's regular blend. This in my opinion is both the best cup of coffee that you can purchase as well as the best store bought brand. Dunkin's regular blend is perfect with some fat free hazelnut creamer. Eight O'Clock's flavored brands were recently featured on NBC's The Today Show as being rated by coffee consumers as the best flavored coffees. The vanilla and hazelnut are excellent! And when I am feeling very bold and want that fruity yet nutty goodness flavor in my mouth, I head for New England's Best's Blueberry Cobbler. With a little fat free half and half and a sprinkle of Splenda, this concoction is good enough to drink for dessert!

Brewing the perfect cup of coffee is not only an art but something that is so easy and it's all about the little delights in life isn't it!?

Friday, May 1, 2009

I took my tastebuds to Asheville

Thanks to the fun and creative nature of my job, I spent three glorious days last week in Asheville, NC doing site visits and learning more about the city and its culture in an effort to bring more bank business to the area. Whitney, Sara and I enjoyed our time touring various hotels, the beautiful Biltmore and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. With our educational visit came a culinary tour of the city that took us to three unique establishments that left us with full stomachs and smiles on our faces.
Our first stop landed us at Sante wine bar in the historic Grove Arcade of Asheville. The atmosphere was perfect for a spring evening. We enjoyed wine and a trio of dips that included bruschetta, roasted red bell pepper with goat cheese and my personal favorite, the roasted walnut and blue cheese. Our quick cocktail hour at Sante was the perfect way to start off the night!

Our second stop of the night took us to one of the most fabulous and ecclectic dining establishments that I have ever been to. Bouchon French Bistro (Bouchon means "cork" in French but Bouchon is also what the French refer to their neighborhood bistros) features "French comfort food". Not only was this place packed on a Monday night but the whole restaurant smelled simply amazing. We were seated in a table at the back of the restaurant and out the back door on the adorable back patio that reminded me of something in Europe. We were served family style and each dish brought out to our table was a surprise. My favorite appetizer was the tomato stuffed with goat cheese over mixed greens. Dinner dishes included a delicious veal picatta, steak au poivre, a roasted portobello mushroom with goat cheese and fresh trout from Asheville. We were told that we had to try the french fries so Michele, the charming owner, brought out three huge cones of them with the tastiest dipping sauce I have ever had! We left Bouchon stuffed but still had one stop to make!
One more stop on the culinary tour and we all know there is ALWAYS room for dessert. In my opinion, it's the whole point of the meal! We made our way to Stovetrotters for our final stop of the night and it was nothing short of a symphony of flavors presented to us on a plate! Three tiny sized desserts to taste and each one was amazing. Strawberry shortcake, chcoolate mousse and bananas foster bread pudding! While enjoying our dessert and coffee, we realized we were enjoying our food in the company of Asheville's own local celebrity...Andie MacDowell! Who knew that a business trip could turn into a tour for your tastebuds?!