Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Snacks

As you all know, I am currently working with families with babies and small kids. Every day I talk with mother and encourage them to cook foods at home, avoid fast food restaurants and try very hard to teach their children the difference between “healthy foods” and “sometimes foods”.

Sometimes I hear some pretty crazy eating habits and sometimes I hear some foods and recipes that I have come home a tried myself. The other day, I came across a website that had a recipe for Homemade Fruit Roll ups. I thought, let me give this one a try, test out the difficulty level because this would be a “sometimes food” for my kids. A snack similar to the junk food they are used to but soooooo much healthier and fresher than the kind you buy at the supermarket.

First I tried strawberries…

1 lb strawberries and 1/8-cup sugar (or less…up to you)

Cut off hulls (green part) of the strawberries. In a blender puree the strawberries and sugar until liquefied. (Do not add any liquid, it will come together on its own)

Pour puree into a saucepan and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 200oF, pour thickened strawberries onto a Silicone Pad and place on a cookie sheet (you can use parchment paper but its possible that it will stick to it). Let dry in the warm over for about 3 hours, or until roll up is no longer sticky to touch. Allow cooling, cut into strips and roll.

***the recipe said to strain the puree, I chose not to do this, seeds are our friends, they have vitamins and fiber. I then went on to make it with mango…turned out just as good!

Making your kids snacks and foods is easy and so much healthier; think about it, my fruit roll ups have fruit and a little bit of sugar…what other ingredients do you think are in the store bought roll ups????  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Sunday at the Venuti's

The weather is getting warmer; the flowers are blooming, kids are playing, more people are exercising and the smells of the grill and camp fire are in the air.

Easter weekend was hectic, crazy, and filled with cooking at our house. We had a very low-key holiday with my parents, Phil's parents, Tete and my sister's family.

Phil and I slept in and decided to relax over coffee with cookbooks deciding what we would serve our guests later in the day...

Knock Knock!!!
Here comes the Easter Bartender (my friendly neighbor and mother-in-law) hahaha

Phil did a quick food shopping and liquor run and off we went with our cooking. The appetizer menu included Bacon Wrapped Dates, Ahi Tuna Cubes with Sesame Dipping Sauce, Greek Bruschetta, and Stuffed Mushrooms.

We sat around the fire pit almost all day munching on appetizer and sipping homemade Margaritas, even Tete had one:). Around 3:30 when my sister arrived with her children. They were extremely excited to see that the Easter Bunny had made a stop at Uncle and Titi's house for them. The baskets and the egg hunt were so fun, then soon after dinner was served.

Roasted Garlic-y Asparagus and Potatoes

The main attractions were a beautiful Oven Roasted Prime Rib and Grilled Lamb Chops.

Another day filled with food, fun, laughter and great company!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mid-20 Crisis

For a very long time I have been saying that I really would LOVE to start up a Personal Catering business or a small cafĂ©. With lots of thoughts, dreams, and even doubt, I’ve decided to go for it. Hey! What’s the worst that could happen?

It’s easy to doubt yourself and to say, “well it will never happen so why bother.” It’s easy to not do something to protect yourself from the disappointment or failure, but if you don’t try, how do you know what the end result will be? My favorite natural food Chef Bethanny Frankel came out with a great book called “A Place of Yes”, basically giving you tips on how to get everything you want out of life. I didn’t finish reading the book but it’s making me think…hmm well I guess all of the famous chefs and successful restaurant owners all over the United States had to start off somewhere.

The definition of passion is any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling toward something. This is how I feel about food, cooking, and creating. Over the past few months I have been using this blog as my cooking outlet, my stress reliever and even though I always knew food is where I wanted to be, I think that sharing my cooking stories with all of you (well my follower are mostly my family, you know who you are…but I’d like to think a lot of people anonymously are reading haha) has made me realize how much I want it even more.

Please surf the new features of the blog, share with your friends and family and cheer me on in my new endeavors!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beautiful day off...

Planted all my grass seed and mulched my patio...
added a few herbs and fresh flowers this year.
 Basil and Philly chillin' by the fire pit :).

Soon..ohhh soon, summer will be here.....

Another day filled with food and family...

Yesterday I had another Amazing day with family, in the morning Phil and I went with our 2 favorite boys, Thomas and Will to the Zoo. After that we made our way to the South shore to spend the afternoon in celebration of Palm Sunday at Gina and Jimmy's House. They prepared us an amazing lunch! With a secret recipe of Sitty's Fried Chicken to the yummy Italian Tartar sauce that I slathered on everything, this weekend was definitely a splurge.

Requested Recipe…

Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse
16 oz carton of heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup Nutella (hazelnut chocolate spread)

In a large bowl, add cold heavy cream, using an electric mixer beat on medium speed until cream thickens, add powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until cream forms soft peaks, about 5 more minutes. Add Nutella and beat until well combined, maybe another minute. Spoon into a plastic bag or piping bag and fill small cups for mini desserts (as featured in picture).

**Another way to use this Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse in a Trifle. In a trifle dish or a clear bowl, layer angel food cake of white cake chunks, strawberries and Chocolate Mousse.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Food Fashionista Party...success!

Last night was my Chocoholic and Shopoholic Party! At 6 pm, my closest family and friends joined for lots of decadent desserts and pocketbook/jewelry shopping, couldn’t have been any better J.

We Featured:
Salted CaramelsChocolate Fountain (with pineapple, strawberry, mango, pretzels, and banana)
Almond Macaroons
Pecan Sandies
Rice Crispy Treats
Crispy Wontons
Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse
Cotton Candy
Cookie Dough Truffles
Chocolate Mint Candy Bark
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Mini Tiramisu
Mini Banana Trifle
Fudge Brownies
Soft Biscotti

For Recipes or information about Hosting your own Food Fashionista Choc-o-holic Party, please post or contact me at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lots of kitchen loves when I have a half day

I'm more than excited to report that I had my first "Happiest Baby on the Block" class today with my moms and babies at work. Due to the weather only 3 people showed up but we had a great time! Being a nutritionist for babies, sometimes they have tummy troubles (colic) or other issues that make them unhappy and cranky. The class that I offered today helps moms soothe their crying newborns and allow them to get through that difficult time. I have been trying to initiate this class for the past year (I know, sounds crazy) but finally, today was the role out. Shout out to my babies…they are all so cute!

Anywaysssss, as you know, my Chocolate Party is this weekend. Since I only worked a half day today I headed to the supermarket to do my shopping for the weekend. When I got home I quickly put together some ideas of what desserts I wanted to prepare and decided that there were a few I could begin prepping today.

*Disclaimer – nothing about my Chocolate Party is healthy…BUT remember my food philosophy will always be everything in moderation. This is a day that we are going to indulge in many fattening flavors and enjoy every minute of it, then on Sunday, we will feel no guilt and all go back to our healthy selves J.

Mint Chocolate Candy Bark
 Caramel Sauce Boiling away..end result will be Salted Caramel Squares (hopefully, this is the first time I have made them)
Other Features:
Chocolate Fountain with lots to dip in it
Mini Banana Trifle
Almond Macaroons
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Just to name a few...have to leave some a surprise for my guests.
Stay Tuned...will post tons of pictures from the party next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week night food blues...

Usually people hate Monday mornings, its after the weekend, no one wants to go back to work…well I hate Tuesdays. They are my longgggg days, I work until 7 pm, get home around 7:20ish, and usually the last thing I want to do when I come home is cook a big dinner. They are usually take-out nights or ramen noodle nights or if Phil’s out, tub of ice cream night (shhh don’t tell).

Today I planned ahead, this morning I took some chicken breast out of the freezer and with a positive attitude I said “tonight I will make an easy and healthy dinner instead of gross pizza or other take out junk food.”

When I got home I searched the fridge and found some fresh asparagus that I drizzled with oil, salt and pepper and put under the broiler (on low).   I then decided that I wanted to bread the chicken cutlet and fry it with a tiny bit of oil to make a nice crust and serve it over garlicy pastina. Dinner was on the table by 7:45...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thanks Minh!

My Chocolate Party is this WEEKEND!! I'm so excited and anxious to start my baking parade. This week with all the planning and party shopping, Phil and I will definitely be cooking only easy (less than 30 min) meals...

Over the weekend, Phil had a poker game with some of his buddies, I was pleasantly surprised when one of our friends Minh, brought me a bag of Asian rice. “Freshly picked from the fields of Asia” he said. As you can imagine I was more than excited to try it out.

I love teppanyaki, which is a Japanese style of cooking using grills/heated flat surfaces to cook a bunch of different foods in front of guests; Basically a big cooking show right at your table. Tonight I attempted (using my special rice) to recreate the vegetable fried rice we have had at the Japanese restaurant.

Vegetable Fried Rice
I cup white rice, prepared
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms
¼ cup carrots, sliced thin
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 green onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat oil, add onions, ginger and garlic and allow to fry for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots and good for another 5-7 minutes. Add cooked rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper and stir. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Vegetable Fried Rice

Minh..I need a good Vietnamese recipe to try out next! J

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Traditions...Nothing Better.

Today, I had the pleasure of receiving cooking lessons from none other than Tete…Phil’s grandmother. She is Syrian and her traditional Arabic cuisine is something that our whole family cherishes. When she invites us to dinner or stops by with a pot of love, we are always so excited and eager to taste her creations.

Over the years I have been picking up tips and ideas for recipes from her but never anything written down. She, like me, doesn’t follow recipes. She adds ingredients that look good or uses “the way it feels” method.

I have been saying for a long while that I wanted to cook with her. She decided that we would start with “Rolled Cabbage” and “Mujadara”. The cabbage is stuffed with ground lamb, rice, and spices. It is then boiled in a garlic-y, lemon-y and mint-y broth and served with Syrian bread. Mujadara (MY FAV) is a simple dish of rice, lentils and caramelized onions.

In the next few months we will be setting up more sessions to learn more traditional cooking methods, theres so much to learn!

2 cups green lentils
1 cup rice, parboiled
3 onions, diced
8 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

In a large pot add oil and onions, sautĂ© over medium heat until onions are brown and caramelized. Add lentils, salt, pepper and water and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice and cook for another 15 minutes or until rice and lentils are very tender (all water should be absorbed).  *Garnish with caramelized onions, optional.

Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized onions)
Rolled Cabbage
"We're Helping!" 
So tired from cooking all day...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Balance Weeknight 30 Minute Meals...

It’s important to me, and most people that I know, for meals during the week to be quick, simple and on the table within 30 minutes or less. Most of my family and friends have work, school, and baby schedules that are crazy; my best tip for us all would be plan ahead…

Planning is key, on a Sunday afternoon or any time that you have free, look through some cookbooks (or at food fashionista of course J) for some recipes. Think about the night of the week that you plan to cook and start with a goal. “I’m going to make dinner 4 out of the 7 night this week” is a good one to start with. When choosing recipes, look for the ones that are less complicated, don’t have an ingredient list of 30 items, don’t require overnight soaking or ‘set aside for 1 hour’, look for quick, simple, tasty, healthy, ideas and make them your own. Just because the recipe calls for one ingredient, doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and add something else or even change it around completely.

Make a shopping list of ingredients that you need. Make sure you have a well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer (see list below for help). When you go to the supermarket, STICK to your list! Don’t go there hungry because then you are more likely to buy things you don’t need, are unhealthy, and will rack up your grocery bill.

When you get home from the grocery store, if you have time, do some prep; meaning wash the lettuce, chop up the carrots and celery (for soups or stews), freezer bag meats, etc, you get the idea…all of these things will save you time on a weeknight…

Mental Preparation…when you’re driving home from work or on the bus or train, say “ok, when I get home, I’m going to kick of my shoes and get going!” Put on some great music, dance and sing while your cooking. Cook with your spouse or your children; make it fun, not a chore!

Stocked Pantry, Fridge and Freezer

Other grains (quinoa, barley, etc)
Olive Oil
Vegetable Oil
Canned beans
Dried Lentils
Dried Spices (rosemary, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, Cajun mix, Montreal steak seasoning)
Canned tomatoes
Chicken broth or bouillon cubes
Fresh herbs (Tip: Wrap fresh herbs in a damp paper towel and they last twice as long)
Rotisserie Chicken
Frozen vegetables
Frozen fruit
Frozen meats (chicken breast, flank steak, pork chops, etc)

Teriyaki Chicken Breast with Lots of Steamed Broccoli (15 minute meal)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

I am beyond excited, why?...because I inherited my Mom's fancy Canon camera (she was lucky enough to get a new one for her Birthday) and it takes awesomeeee pictures of my food!

I had a great weekend. On Saturday, my Best girl and I heading for a girly day (MUCH needed). We got Manis and Pedis and that day I vowed to the little Vietnamese women that I was not ever going to bit my nails again…I don’t know what starts bad habits like that anyways. We then got a great lunch (PF Chan’s) and did some shopping, so relaxing. After our day of girl time, Phil and I headed down south to visit both sets of parents at their Marshfield summer homes. It was a beautiful night and we took Miss Basil for a nice walk on the Beach that she loved! I feel like a new person, I needed a weekend like this, can’t wait for the summer time!!!! 

Tonight I yet again felt adventurous. After making pasta last week I though hmm, why wouldn’t I be able to make Gnocchi…Gnocchi is a small Italian dumpling usually made with potato or ricotta cheese for the base, white flour or semolina flour and spices for flavor. Gnocchi, I read online comes from the word nocchio, meaning knot in wood, which to me makes no sense as a translation. If I spoke Italian I would tell everyone that Gnocchi in English meant “pillow”…just makes more sense don’t you think? J

Potato Gnocchi
4 medium sized potatoes, pealed
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp salt
½ tbsp black pepper
1 ½ cup white flour

In a large pot, add potatoes and water and boil until potatoes are fully cooked and soft. Drain potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Add salt, cheese, and pepper and set aside to cool. When at room temperature add the eggs and stir until well combine (try to make sure there are no large lumps of potato). Gradually add flour mixing with a spatula. On a flour surface form dough into a large ball. Cut dough ball into 6 triangles. Still on the flour service, gently roll ropes of dough from each triangle section. Cut rope into 1-inch dumplings. Cook dumplings in boil water for 5-7 minutes (when they float to the top, leave them for another minute).

 Fresh Gnocchi with Simple Aioli of Onion, Garlic, Lemon Zest and Fresh Parsely...