Sunday, January 31, 2010

Holy Moly Rigatoni

A few weeks ago, I arranged a spur of the moment Friday girls dinner with my dear friends Crystal & Meredith. I wanted something easy and fresh and we were all in the mood for pasta. I searched the largest cookbook I know of (the internet) and with a little creativity and a collaborative effort amongst a handful of recipes I discovered, I managed to cook up a small pasta miracle. The only thing that took time was slow roasting the vegetables but that just left some extra time to sip our wine and catch up on life and love.

Roasted Vegetable Rigatoni
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 4 vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Baby spinach
  • Fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni
  • Romano cheese to sprinkle on top
Set oven at 400 degrees. Start with eggplant, tomatoes and onion. Cut up the vegetables in large chunks and spread them out on an oven safe tray/dish/etc. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss together to be sure that the vegetables are equally coated and seasoned. Place the whole garlic cloves (un-peeled) in with the vegetables and roast at 400 for about 40 minutes. While the vegetables are roasting, wash baby spinac
h and set aside along with fresh chopped basil. When the vegetables are done, remove the garlic and transfer the rest of the vegetables to a large serving bowl. The garlic will be soft and should easily squeeze out of the peel. Place that in a small mixing bowl and mash it up then add the 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. Whisk it together and set aside. When pasta is cooked, toss in with vegetables and add the spinach and basil. The
warm pasta and vegetables wilt the spinach and basil. Mix in the olive oil and balsamic and serve with Romano cheese to garnish.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cozy Crock Pot Comfort

It's a snowy Saturday here in Charlotte and I am forced to stay in snuggled up but trying with all my might to make it a productive and happy day. I could think of nothing more lovely having MM here to snuggle inside with me on this frigid Saturday afternoon...thank goodness I am hopping on a plane in only 12 days!

It seems as though an arctic snap of sorts has hit everywhere so it seems only appropriate to share a warm savory soup recipe that was a hit with the Nidos a few weeks ago. Andi got the genius idea to buy me a crock pot for Christmas and I am absolutely in LOVE with it. I have used it twice already and is perfect for meals during the work week. Between busy days at work and bustling around with time in between trying to fit in my wedding planning, delicious food is a must and easy recipes are key. This chicken tortilla soup is like a little fiesta in your mouth. I found the recipe on and it's a keeper! All of the ingredients are super fresh and throwing it in the crock pot takes no time at all.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen corn
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro
  • Sliced avocado and lime to garnish
Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours on or high setting for 3 to 4 hours.

I was feeling extra punchy as I hosted my family for dinner and decided to make my own corn tortilla strips for garnish. I bought fresh corn tortillas, cut them in strips, sprayed with olive oil cooking spray and a small sprinkle of salt. I baked them at 425 for 8 minutes and they were the perfect touch.

I was then inspired to use the leftover corn tortillas as a sweet ending to our meal as I cut them in quarters, sprinkled with cooking spray and cinnamon and sugar, and baked on 425 for 8 minutes. I served this with vanilla ice cream and sauteed wild blueberries.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Food For Thought...

"Life is so brief that we should not glance too far backwards or forwards...therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and on our plate"

- Grimod de la Reyniere

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peace, Love & Paninis

Paninis are really so simple to make and one of those meals that you can completely personalize. A true panini is grilled and pressed and best when prepared on a proper panini press. For Christmas, Mark's parents surprised me with my very own panini press and I absolutely love it. It was the perfect gift for this Italian girl. I have used it twice already and each has been a success. I have so many ideas for ingredients that I want to marry together in sandwich bliss.

An arctic snap has seemed to take over Charlotte so last week, Ashley and I paired Turkey & Artichoke paninis with warm tomato soup. I don't think I could have picked a better meal last Monday as we eased into work after the holidays and tried desperately to stay warm and cozy.

Turkey Artichoke Paninis
  • Good crusty bread, sliced for sandwiches (we used sourdough)
  • Sliced turkey breast
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Roasted red peppers, sliced
  • Sliced mozzarella
  • Salt & pepper
  • Balsamic vinaigrette, for dipping
    Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. Arrange bread and top with turkey, artichokes and red peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place mozzarella on top followed by the second slice of bread. Throw the sandwich on the press and cook until cheese is melted and perfect grill marks appear.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Bites & Everything Nice

Christmas 2009 did not disappoint in the Nido house as we were all bustling around trying to take it all in. These pictures of Christmas captured through a lens really speak for themselves.

My wonderful mother had our house dressed in Christmas in an exceptionally gorgeous fashion this year with new little touches that only added to the magic. My favorite
extra burst were the floating hydrangeas in tall candle pillars that looked absolutely breathtaking on the table scape for the annual party.

The food still takes center stage as the house filled with the scent of fresh pizzelles being pressed, caramelized sugar for our Christmas Eve creme brulee and the special smells that can only be noticed at this special time of year.

My delighted us again this year with his magical meringue mushrooms that are so delicate and cloud like. They are just tiny puffs of air that look like small works of art rather than an edible after dinner dessert (that also happens to make a great conversation piece at a holiday dinner party).

Before I left work on a two week vacation (aka heaven), I tried my hand at peppermint Oreo truffles which turned out to be one of the easiest and most delicious bite sized sweet treat that I have ever made. Andi discovered this recipe early in the season and has promised to post a guest blog with a step by step recipe...I'm holding her to it.

On Christmas Eve, we ate our precious annual dinner of shrimp scampi and polenta with a rich and hearty marinara sauce that is truly the best marinara sauce eaten all year...

Did I mention the Nido girls for a new brother for Christmas!? I could not be happier and will post the most magical of all engagement stories soon! And yes, we are still listening to Christmas music. I pray for best wishes and many special blessings for everyone in 2010!!!