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October 21, 2014 / sweetsavant

Broccoli and Chicken with Cheese Tortellini #Recipe

Broccoli, chicken and cheese tortelli

Broccoli, chicken and cheese tortellini in a creamy sauce make a quick, delicious dinner

This broccoli, chicken and cheese tortellini recipe is delicious and pretty quick to get on the dinner table, even on a weeknight.

A little cream and Parmesan cheese make a thick, savory sauce that clings to the pasta, chicken and vegetables. This dish is a family favorite that gets ‘em to the table in a hurry. This is NOT a sponsored post, I use Barilla Tortellini because its tasty and shelf stable.

Broccoli,  chicken breast and cheese tortellini

Just a few easy steps to make this delicious dinner. Broccoli, chicken breast and cheese tortellini

Broccoli and Chicken with Cheese Tortellini Recipe

Serves 4-6 people

1 package  of Cheese tortellini (dried. Refrigerated  or frozen) I used a 12 ounce bag of Barilla dried 3 cheese tortellini found in the pasta aisle12 ounces of fresh or frozen broccoli florets1 pound of chicken breast

½ cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt

 

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon  of salt to the water and boil the tortellini for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets to the pasta water and continue to boil for 5 additional minutes.  Drain and set aside. (You may have to adjust cooking time according to the type of tortellini used.)While waiting for the pasta water to boil start working on the chicken. Slice chicken breasts into strips about 2 inches long by ½ inch wide.

 

Put flour and 1 teaspoon of salt into a plastic bag, add the chicken strips and toss to coat.

Shake off excess flour and sauté  the chicken in oil over medium heat.

 

Lightly brown the chicken on each side, cooking for 5 minutes. If the chicken isn’t completely done it will finish cooking in the sauce. You may have to cook the chicken in batches.

 

Remove the chicken from the pan and sauté the garlic over low heat for about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth and cream into the pan and boil to reduce until thick, about 7 minutes.

 

Stir in the chicken, tortellini broccoli and Parmesan cheese, simmer for 2-3 minutes. (The flour we tossed the chicken in earlier will help to thicken the sauce). Add salt to taste.

 

 

 

October 18, 2014 / sweetsavant

In New York EVERYTHING is gourmet

There is so much gourmet in N.Y. Gourmet delis in Queens

There is so much gourmet in N.Y. This gourmet deli in Queens is apparently also a casino…maybe

My family and I took a quick trip to New York over the long weekend. We were only there for two and a half days and yet we saw so many gourmet markets. How gourmet are they? I really can’t say, I didn’t sample the food in any of them. I just rest better at night knowing they’re there.

More gourmet in Queens

More gourmet in Queens and its even open every day!

Gourmet delis in Manhattan

Gourmet delis in Manhattan

I bet you'll get a nice smile at SMILER Gourmet Deli (yeah that was corny)

I bet you’ll get a nice smile at SMILER Gourmet Deli (yeah that was corny)

More gourmet delis in Manhattan

More gourmet delis in Manhattan

Gourmet gets erotic

Gourmet gets erotic

Gourmet is international

Gourmet goes international

Ray's got his own gourmet

Ray’s got his own gourmet deli

and so does Moe

and so does Moe

? Gourmet

? Gourmet

Gourmet on Coney Island in Brooklyn

Gourmet on Coney Island in Brooklyn…well, not today

Even gourmet in LaGuardia Airport

Even gourmet in LaGuardia Airport

so much gourmet I could capture it all

October 16, 2014 / sweetsavant

Dinner at The Atlanta Improv is no laughing matter

cocktails at Improv

The Headliner for the night was Comedian Ron Funches but the sushi stole the show. Now, you might think twice about ordering sushi from a a comedy club (I certainly did) but the sushi at The Atlanta Improv is provided by Master Sushi chef Saito Saito of Czar Ice Bar a restaurant just next door to the comedy club. The Atlanta Improv calls on several of its neighboring restaurant to provide meals for it’s hungry patrons. The Improv Atlanta is part of the East Andrews Entertainment District that boasts 9 different venues and is host to loads of special events.  I just bought my tickets to the Andrews Moonshine Festival-10/18/14 and on Halloween they are hosting Fright Night, a costume party for Adults (I’m sure that’s gonna be scandalous).

The Atlanta Improv is located on the second level at the East Andrews entertainment district. There is an open courtyard with a fountain in the center.

The Atlanta Improv is located on the second level at the East Andrews entertainment district. There is an open courtyard with a fountain in the center.

 Lobster Roll and Mango Roll at the Atlanta Improv

The Lobster Roll (lobster, avocado,cream cheese, rice paper, mango, sweet chili sauce) and Mango Roll (shrimp tempura, crab stick, mango, sweet and sour sauce) at the Atlanta Improv were fresh and delicious. Prepared by Master Sushi Chef Saito Saito from Czar Ice Bar the sushi is quickly delivered to the Atlanta Improv next door. I highly recommend the sushi.

Our show started at 8pm but the doors open at 7 and the line starts forming early. If you want a seat in the area in front of the stage, get there closer to 7pm. As the room starts to fill a few walls to the left and right of the stage are moved (banquet hall style) to accommodate more guests. My husband and I got there early so I could order a few menu items and get some good pictures of them, the lights go down at 8 when the show begins and flash photography is not allowed.

I jumped the gun a bit (great sushi gets me excited) we actually started with an order of Improv Nachos which were quite tasty. The chips were still crunchy when the mountain of nachos arrived at the table and that’s a very good sign. The chicken in these nachos was well seasoned and the veggies were fresh and crisp. Another win for the Improv.

Improv nachos

Improv Nachos (Tortilla Chips topped with Ancho-Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Garlic Lime Grilled Sweet Corn, Cheese Sauce, Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Pico de Gallo, Jalapenos, and Scallions). I recommend these as well.

The lights went down and the show began just as our appetizer combo, called The Headliner, arrived along with an entree of short ribs and risotto. My husband stepped out into the lit hallway with the plates to take a few quick pics for the blog (we were seated in the back of the room near the exit so we wouldn’t be disruptive).

This combination of appetizers was fun to share (we were on a double date). The fried green tomatoes (topped with a Cilantro Pesto and Goat Cheese Crumbles) for me were the most successful part of the combo. Crispy on the outside and tangy /tender on the inside. The calamari  were not quite as tender as I like calamari to be, but still they were crunchy and tasty. The BBQ Egg rolls, filled with zesty shredded pork in a tangy/sweet sauce,  were good as well.

Fried green tomatoes, calamari and BBQ egg rolls

The Headliner combo platter of appetizers- Fried green tomatoes, calamari and BBQ egg rolls

The biggest miss of the evening was the Guinness braised short rib dish with  (not pictured) . Braised Short Ribs, Wild Mushroom Risotto served with Haricot Vert. The dish was not bad but the short ribs were a bit stringy, not meltingly tender like a short rib should be. The haricot vert were crisp and fresh and the Parmesan risotto was good and satisfying.

From left to right Rick Glassman, me, Ron Funches, and my husband. Catch Ron Funches and Rick Glassman on Undateable-NBC.

From left to right Rick Glassman, me, Ron Funches, and my husband. Catch Ron Funches and Rick Glassman on Undateable-NBC.

The true star of the night was comedian Ron Funches. He puts on a great show and had us in tears most of the evening. He has a unique style of delivery and the sweetest giggle from a grown man I’ve ever heard. He comes across as a gentle, nice guy stoner, sharing some odd thoughts about Muppet Babies among other things (yes, Muppet Babies,  you  read that right) and a bit of off color language. He puts on a great show and I’d love to see him again.

The Atlanta Improv has quite a few heavy hitters coming up in the next few weeks like Brian Callen (from Sex and the City as well as The Hangover 1&2 and a LOT of other stuff) on October 16th, 17th and 18th.  Paul Reiser (who I LOVED in Mad About You) will perform on December 5th and 6th.

Our meal, compliments of the Atlanta Improv, was provided to share my honest opinions. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

October 8, 2014 / sweetsavant

Browned Butter, Bourbon and Banana sauce with Raw Sugar

Browned Butter, Bourbon and banana sauce

Pour this Browned Butter, Bourbon and banana sauce over ice cream and you will be very, VERY happy

You’re gonna want to pour this Browned Butter, Bourbon, Banana sauce on EVERYTHING…Ice cream, pancakes, FRENCH TOAST WAFFLES (here’s the recipe for that).  I use raw, unrefined sugar in this recipe for it’s deep, rich flavor. You will get some crunchy bits from using raw sugar but I think this just adds to the deliciousness. If you can’t find raw sugar you can use light brown sugar.

French Toast Waffles

French Toast Waffles with Browned Butter, Bourbon and Banana Sauce over French Toast Waffles

I use slightly under-ripe bananas (not green, but not a lot of brown spots wither) in this recipe. These are firmer than very ripe bananas and won’t turn to mush during cooking.

Browned Butter, Bourbon and Banana sauce over ice cream.

Browned Butter, Bourbon and Banana sauce over ice cream.

BROWNED BUTTER, BOURBON AND BANANA SAUCE with Raw Sugar

Makes 1 ½ cups

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

½ cup raw sugar (brown sugar is a good substitute)

2 slightly under-ripe bananas

1 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons bourbon or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a 2 quart saucepan melt the butter and let it begin to brown a bit. Add corn syrup, raw sugar bananas, cinnamon and salt. Let this simmer until the sugar has mostly dissolved, about 2 minutes. The raw sugar won’t dissolve completely, leaving crunchy toffee bits (YUM!)

Turn off the heat and add the cream and bourbon (or vanilla)

The mixture will bubble up vigorously so use caution.  Stir the mixture to blend and serve over waffles or ice cream or French Toast, or bread pudding…

October 8, 2014 / sweetsavant

French Toast Waffles..yes, you read that right

French Toast waffles

French Toast Waffles are possibly the most delicious breakfast food I’ve ever made. I’m not exaggerating

A loaf of bread, a simple batter and your waffle iron are all you need to make these delicious French Toast Waffles. On Sunday morning I used an entire loaf of bread to make these French Toast Waffles, thinking that I was making enough to have some left over for breakfast one day during the week. I underestimated my family’s love of French Toast Waffles as there was only one left (and I only ate one myself)…in hindsight I should have taken some out and put them aside.

French Toast in the Waffle iron

French Toast in the Waffle iron, its good…REALLY GOOD

The waffle iron cooks the French Toast quickly and if you have a large one you can cook several pieces at a time so you can get it on the table fast. The sugar in the French Toast batter caramelizes where it pressed into the iron and gets crispy like creme brule.

I made browned butter, bourbon and banana sauce with raw sugar (here’s the recipe) to top the French Toast Waffles but you can use your favorite syrup.

French Toast Waffles

French Toast Waffles- a whole lotta breakfast goodness

French Toast Waffles makes 16 slices

2 cups Half and Half

4 eggs

½ cup raw sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

16 slices of bread

2 tablespoons softened butter or cooking spray

Heat your oven to 200°Heat your waffle iron.

Beat half and half, eggs, sugar and vanilla until sugar is dissolved.

Brush waffle iron with butter or spray with non stick cooking spray

Dip a slice of bread in batter for about 3 seconds and cook in the waffle iron according to its settings. (as many as can fit in your waffle iron at a time)

Cook according to the settings on your waffle iron. Place on a wire rack on a sheet pan as you cook the rest of the French Toast Waffles. Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve.

September 30, 2014 / sweetsavant

How to make Paella the right way and how the HexxCooker can Upgrade your Grill Game

HexxCooker with perforated wok and wok ring

HexxCooker with perforated wok and wok ring. Our Host Luchi Palermo roasted Roma tomatoes, jalapenos and scallions to make the most delicious salsa. After roasting she blended it all up and served it warm. Delicious!

When I (along with other members of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society) was invited by Ray and Luchi Palermo, creators of the QuadCooker,  to check out a demonstration of their new creation the HexxCooker  I was intrigued (they fed me well for my attendance and this is my honest opinion of the product). (here’s a link to the QuadCooker site for more details) I love my old grill but it never gets as hot as I would like it. The HexxCooker vows to solve that problem. Your normal backyard grill gets to about 550 degrees (maybe…probably not quite that hot) while the HexxCooker reaches up to 900 degrees or more. That high temperature is a result of the  quad rock used to form the crucible of the cooker. The special concrete blend that forms the quadrock holds the heat inside and distributes it evenly while staying  cool to the touch on the outside. Here’s a quick Instagram video of a demonstration Ray did to show the insulating power of the quadrock. The grates on the HexxCooker are made from laser cut, case hardened carbon steel (smoother than cast iron) to stand up extremely high heat. The grate isn’t non stick but when cooking oil spray is used food released easily from the grate. I was impressed with the product and I’m happy to share it with you.

check out the HexxCooker Kickstarter campaign here

After a trip to Spain,  Ray and Luchi  were inspired to develop the high heat cooking HexxCooker after dining on paella. Traditionally paella is cooked over an open wood fire so the rice can absorb the smoke. Once they returned from Spain they began development of a product that would help them recreate the paella they loved. Ray spent some time working on prototypes and came up with the original QuadCooker design. After the success of the original, the QuadCooker creators are now introducing a smaller, more portable version called the HexxCooker. Built from the same materials, the smaller HexxCooker is a powerhouse of heat as well. I must admit, when they said the HexxCooker was portable I gave them a bit of the ole’ side eye. It looks like it should weigh a ton but it really is light enough to bring tailgating or camping.

I was surprised by how light the HexxCooker is.

I was surprised by how light the HexxCooker is.

HexxCooker grilling some pineapple for dessert

Ray Palermo, creator of the HexxCooker grilling up some pineapple for dessert. In the other HexxCooker you can see the coals in the crucible. I thought he was crazy with the grill on top of a wooden table. I thought the whole thing was going to go up in flames but the quadrock insulates so well that the outside of the cooker stays cool.

Our host grilled some steak and sausages for us as appetizers. The high heat of the HexxCooker gave the steak a caramelized crust normally only found in an expensive steakhouse and cooked the sausages quickly while retaining moisture, I was impressed with the results. I wish I’d had an opportunity to cook on the HexxCooker myself to get firsthand knowledge of the product, hopefully soon I can test it out myself. Ray also made fried shrimp in a wok on the HexxCooker, it really is a versatile tool.

HexxCooker steak and sausage

HexxCooker grilling steak and sausages for a quick and delicious appetizer. Just slice and serve on a platter with small appetizer forks and some horseradish sauce and mustard

Grilled steak and sausage make easy and delicious appetizers

Grilled steak and sausage make easy and delicious appetizers

Ray was nice enough to share his delicious paella with us and in turn I’m going to share his recipe (with his permission) with you.

The stages of paella

The stages of paella

Ray Palermo’s PAELLA MENENDEZ SERVINGS: 6

  • 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Oz Cubed pork (shoulder or butt)
  • 4 Bnls Chicken Thighs Cubed
  • 1 Sm Spanish Chorizo sliced
  • 1 Med onion chopped
  • 1/2 Lg green pepper chopped
  • 5 Cloves Garlic chopped
  • 4 C Broth (Fish and/or Chicken)
  • 1 C White Wine
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Pinches Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Pinch Saffron
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 C Short Grain White Rice
  • Shrimp/Calamari/Clam/Mussels
  • 1/2 C Frozen Peas
  • 8 Pcs Pimento pepper
Place the paella pan on top of the pre-warmedQUAD grill top. Add olive oil to the pan. Once oil is heated, add chicken and pork. Stir the meat with a wooden spoon until browned, approximately 4 minutes. Add Spanish chorizo and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add onions and green peppers and cook until the onions are translucent.Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaf, salt,pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley and saffron. Let this mixture simmer for 1-2 minutes. As the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the rice, and then add wine. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, keep checking rice for

doneness. The rice will absorb most of the liquid, stir in additional wine or broth in ½-cup increments if necessary.

Once the rice not quite done but just a little crunchy to the taste (there should still be excess liquid in the pan), arrange the seafood on the surface of the rice. Sprinkle peas and

pimentos over the seafood. Cover the pan with the dome top and allow to steam-cook. Cooking will take approximately 5 minutes. Shellfish should open and shrimp will turn pink when cooked.

Let the paella rest for 5-10 minutes before serving to absorb any liquid.

QUAD SETUP

Full chimney of coal. Hot fire. Quad with the grill and paella pan.

ACCOMPANIMENTS & SIDES

Paella is a meal unto itself; just set the pan in the middle of the table to serve. A mixed green salad would certainly complement the dish.

the finished paella, loaded with pork, chicken, clams, shrimp, scallops

Here’s the finished paella, loaded with pork, chicken, clams, shrimp, scallops, peas…mmm SO good

September 15, 2014 / sweetsavant

When Should you teach your kids to COOK + Great MeatBall and Sauce #Recipe

How old should your kids be when you start teaching them to cook?  I’ve been asked this by quite a few people over the years and my answer is this: Start teaching your kids to cook RIGHT NOW. There are are many lessons you can teach your kids even when they are babies…now, don’t give your toddler a knife…that’s bad.  Here are a few ways to teach your kids about food, cooking and making healthy choices

Take your kids grocery shopping with you, feed them a snack before you leave the house and bring your patience.  Yes, its going to take longer to get through the store but it’s a great time to show your kids all the beautiful produce.  Talk to them about all the colors they see as you stroll down the aisle. Some of my favorite days have been at local farmers markets with my kids sampling juicy, red watermelon or crisp apples in the fall.  If you can take your kids to a farm, even better. Let them see where their food comes from to help foster a love of pure, clean and unprocessed foods.  Teach your kids to wash their hands before (and after handling meat) as well as the produce ) you purchase before they start cooking, food borne illnesses are no fun for anyone (don’t let the water get too hot for their delicate skin. Use separate cutting boards of different colors for meat and produce to prevent cross contamination. A wide,  sturdy step stool is your young assistant’s best friend, your little one may not be tall enough yet to reach the sink or counters.

 

My son icing some pumpkin cookies he made for math class in 6th grade.  They had a project on converting fractions; he  was given a recipe and asked to triple the amounts.

My son icing some pumpkin cookies he made for math class in 6th grade. They had a project on converting fractions; he was given a recipe and asked to triple the amounts.

As your kids get older let them help you make their snacks.  One of the my kids’ favorite snacks when they were small was honey butter bears. With a cookie cutter I let my kids cut a Teddy Bear shape from a slice of whole wheat toast, spread it with a little softened butter and drizzle with honey. Let your kids help you measure ingredients and talk with them about fractions at the same time, cooking is a great way to work on those math skills.  As they get older let the kids increase and decrease recipes for you to teach them how to multiply and divide fractions.

 

You must use your best judgement when deciding to allow your children to use a knife and the stove.  Start with soft fruits and a plastic knife when your kids are in elementary school.  Making a fruit salad is a great way to teach knife skills.  Teach your kids to make a claw with their fingers tucked in for saftey when holding the food and give the task their undivided attention.  Turn the television off, no distractions please.  My daughter was about 10 when I taught her how to use a chef’s knife. She’s always been a mature child and has a passion for cooking.  My son, however was not allowed to use a chef’s knife until he was 12. I felt he was too easily distracted and needed to mature a bit more before using such a dangerous tool. They must always have permission to knives or the stove and they must be supervised by myself, my husband or a trusted adult.

 

My daughter loves to bake and she LOVES meringue.  This is the best of both worlds for her.  She wasn't quite ready to use the blow torch to brown the meringue at that time so I did that part.

My daughter loves to bake and she LOVES meringue. This is the best of both worlds for her. She wasn’t quite ready to use the blow torch to brown the meringue at that time so I did that part. Keep dangerous tools out of kids’ reach and out of sight.

Meatballs are a great recipe to use for a cooking lesson. The kids get to crack eggs, dice an onion, measure spices, mix goodies like cheese into the ground meat mixture and form even balls with their clean hands. If they are old enough to use the stove (my kids were about 11/12 when I allowed them to use the stove supervised) they can brown the meatballs and simmer them in sauce until fully cooked.

my daughter and niece making meatballs and having a great time

My daughter and niece making meatballs and having a great time

Meatballs makes about 20 – 2 inch meatballs, you can make them any size you like

1/2 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds Ground Beef Chuck (80% lean)

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

Sauteed onions over low heat in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add garlic, stir and let cool.

In a large bowl put ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and cooled onion garlic mixture and mix together. Form into balls and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done.

Simmer in tomato sauce (recipe below) and serve with pasta or just eat them for a snack

Tomato sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-28ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste and and cook, stirring for about a minute.  Add Crushed tomato, dried oregano and salt cook, stirring for about 30 -40 minutes

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